Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-2) praised the passage of H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA), out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday.
As the only Oklahoman to serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Mullin worked diligently with fellow committee members in developing the water infrastructure reform legislation that directly impacts the state.
“Congressman Mullin brings real-life, private sector experience to the table,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster. “His business sense and first-hand knowledge has helped attain solutions that are practical and effective.”
“Providing a business perspective was an important way to address critical needs for our inland water ports without adding in earmarks,” said Mullin. “Pro-business legislation along with private sector investment results in job growth and increased efficiency and accountability. As a result of WRRDA, the state of Oklahoma will see much needed water infrastructure reforms and significant economic savings. ”
Mullin went on to explain the roughly $100 million in backlog of critical maintenance along the MKARNS system, including 20 projects on the priority list which is estimated to cost $63 million.
“These priority projects have a 50/50 chance of failing within the next 5 years,” said Mullin. “It’s like a ticking time bomb, waiting for something to fail. If this occurs, Oklahoma’s economy will face a $2 million loss each day it is closed.”
With the expansion of the Panama Canal, it is expected the MKARNS system will be under even more strain. For this, WRRDA gives non-federal interests the opportunity to provide resources such as funds, equipment, and manpower to partner with the Army Corps of Engineers on some of these projects for emergency preparedness and reparation on locks and the navigation channel.
WRRDA also requires notification from the Army Corps of Engineers of any proposed modification on lock closures and allows public comment on the proposal to prevent any type of oversight error. WRRDA additionally lifts a federal halt on the Cherokee Nation’s ability to construct, operate, and market power for a hydropower facility on the W. D. Mayo Lock and Dam.
Included in WRRDA are provisions affecting the Port of Catoosa in Oklahoma, which is one of the largest inland ports in the United States. The Port of Catoosa is currently in need of a barge fleeting facility to ensure they have enough room to park barges and accommodate the expansion and growth of the Port. WRRDA enables the Port to exchange land with the Army Corps of Engineers to achieve this goal.
During the committee meeting, Mullin requested a GAO study on the way the Army Corps of Engineers handles water storage pricing.
“As cities and municipalities struggle with water supply and storage shortages due to drought, city growth and other things, it is imperative we make sure that cost of additional water is an attainable amount,” said Mullin. “My hope is that this study will shed some light on pricing issues and help us better understand how to help municipalities ensure their citizens have enough water.”
The next stop for H.R. 3080 (WRRDA) is the House floor in the coming weeks.
Play the video to hear comments from the Congressman regarding the committee passage of WRRDA.