Water navigation bills include big wins, more funding for Louisiana's 5th District
WASHINGTON - Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., this week voted for two bills that contain increased funding and other wins for waterway systems throughout Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District.
HR 8, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), passed Wednesday. HR 5895, the Energy and Water Development, Legislative Branch and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, passed Friday. HR 5895 is commonly referred to as the “minibus.”
“Waterways are critical to Louisiana’s economy, including my district where we have more than 1,000 miles of navigable waterways. Providing the resources to keep these waterways open for business so that commerce continues to flow is always among my top priorities, and I’m proud to report that our district will benefit from these bills the House passed this week,” Dr. Abraham said.
HR 5895 provided increased construction, operation and maintenance funding for the U.S. Corps of Engineers, which is tasked with maintaining navigable inland waterways. Dr. Abraham worked with the Trump Administration and House appropriators to include $1.315 million for dredging at the Lake Providence Port for FY19.
“The Lake Providence Port is one of the largest inland waterway ports in terms of annual tonnage. We need to keep the river dredged and the port open for navigation so that grain and other commodities can reach the global market. Also, the increased funding for the Corps will help ensure funds are available for navigation projects along the Ouachita-Black Rivers, the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway and the Madison Parish Port,”Dr. Abraham said.
Combined funding for the minibus totaled $145.4 billion in discretionary spending, including $921 million in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.
WRDA authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study and construct new waterways projects that will help improve water navigation and commerce, flood control, and costal and environmental restoration. It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support on a 408-2 vote.
Dr. Abraham worked to include language in WRDA to benefit waterways in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District. The biggest wins include:
- A study on deepening the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway (Red River) navigation channel from 9 ft. to 12 ft. A deeper navigation channel will allow more tonnage to be loaded onto barges, increasing efficiency and reducing costs of shipping.
- A study on adding the lower portion of the Little River to the Ouachita and Black Rivers Navigation Project. The Little River is a tributary of the Ouachita and Black River systems and feeds into the it at a terminal near Jonesville, a critical fuel distribution center for 15 parishes and counties in Louisiana and Mississippi. Including the Little River in the Ouachita/Black will allow the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the lower 14,000 ft and ensure that fuel distribution to local businesses and farms is not disrupted.
- NOTE: Studies are the first steps required by the federal government to move forward with dredging and deepening channels.