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A huge win for the Great Lakes: GCP lauds passage of landmark water resources reform legislation by U.S. House

Cleveland, Ohio—Passage today by the U.S. House of Representatives of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) is a major step toward ensuring long-term protection of, and support for, the nation’s water infrastructure network, especially the Great Lakes. Later this week, the Senate will act on the legislation, which is expected to create an estimated 500,000 jobs.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership led a local and regional effort to draft and pass sections of the precursor Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) bill, which became the renamed and reauthorized conference report, WRRDA, one of the most policy- and reform-focused measures of its kind in the last two decades.

“This is a huge win for the Great Lakes region,” said Joe Roman, president and CEO of the GCP, which worked locally and regionally with members of Build Up Greater Cleveland, the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, and organizations such as the Lake Carriers Association, to advocate for this critical piece of legislation.

“Designating the Great Lakes’ ports, harbors and connecting channels as a single, comprehensive navigation system is a first. This will result in higher levels of investment over time because the legislation requires that the interdependence of the system be recognized; project decisions will result in allocations to support the entire Great Lakes system.”

Ohio Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-OH-7) was instrumental in drafting the bill, working for its passage in the House, and in the negotiations within the Conference Committee. The highlight of this effort was an August 2013 visit to Cleveland, at the invitation of the GCP, by Gibbs and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA-9) for a water infrastructure stakeholders discussion and the Build Up Greater Cleveland annual meeting.

“This afternoon the House came together to pass WRRDA, which is unlike any other bill passed by Congress,” said Congressman Gibbs. “This bill maintains fiscal responsibility and de-authorizes $6 billion more than is authorized in new spending. This bill will also continue to allow Congress to determine our nation’s infrastructure priorities though an annual report process.

“It is also important to note that WRRDA ensures that the Great Lakes ports are treated as a unified system when the United States Army Corps of Engineers plans for future dredging and shipping consideration. I appreciate the efforts of the Greater Cleveland Partnership on educating members about the importance of the Great Lakes region and the impact that WRRDA has on this region. Together we were able to gain perspectives that proved valuable in the construction of this bill.”

Items that were advocated for and included in the legislation are:
  • Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF): Provides for increased spending of trust fund receipts on water related projects by redirecting funds previously spent on non-water related projects. This will increase the level of investment for water infrastructure.
  • Great Lakes Navigation System (GLNS): Provisions designating all ports, harbors, and connecting channels on the Great Lakes as a single, comprehensive navigation system for management and budgeting purposes were included in the report.
  • Funding set-asides for Great Lakes: Funds available will not be less than 10 percent of funds for projects located within the GLNS.
  • Eligibility of GLNS projects for other set-asides: GLNS projects are eligible for other set-asides for emerging harbors and underserved harbors.
  • Inland waterways: The report includes provisions to restructure the inland waterways system to improve project delivery, lower costs, improve project management, and free up resources for more critical projects.

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About the Greater Cleveland Partnership

The Greater Cleveland Partnership mobilizes private-sector leadership, expertise and resources to create attractive business conditions that create jobs, grow investment and improve the economic prosperity of the region. www.gcpartnership.com.