House votes to override veto of water resources bill

The House voted to override President Bush’s veto of the $23-billion Water Resources Development Act of 2007 by a vote of 361-54. It was the president’s fifth veto since taking office and the first to be overturned by the House.

Although it does not provide funding for specific projects, the bill sets up a plan for revitalizing the nation’s water transportation infrastructure and restoring wetlands and other environmentally sensitive projects.

The 32,000-member National Corn Growers Association, which has been a strong advocate for the legislation, immediately called on the Senate to also override the president’s veto. NCGA officials said they thought the outcome would be similar in the Senate.

“We have worked so hard and so long to get improvements on the Upper Mississippi River System authorized,” said Ron Litterer, president of the NCGA and a corn grower from Greene, Iowa, referring to one of the projects included in the bill.

According to Litterer, America’s inland navigation system plays a major role in the economy, moving more than 1 billion tons of domestic commerce valued at $300 billion. More than 1 billion bushels of grain (60 percent of all grain exports) move to export markets via the inland waterways each year, accounting for $8.5 billion in exports.

In the seven years since the Congress passed the last Water Resources Development Act, a significant number of needs have arisen for our nation’s inland waterways, said the NCGA leader.

“This WRDA bill addresses many of those issues by authorizing critical projects on the inland waterways, including the modernization of seven locks along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River, a project that will dramatically improve our ability to deliver crops to the global marketplace,” he said.

“Additionally, WRDA addresses issues such as environmental restoration, port modernization, flood control, hurricane protection, water supply, irrigation and beach nourishment and recreation.”

The bill provides no funding but sets up a plan for completing different projects over the next 10 years. Funding will have to be approved through the annual federal budget process, according to NCGA officials.

In a letter to members of the House and Senate, the NCGA and other groups said they were calling on Congress to do “what the administration wouldn’t; enact the Water Resources Development Act of 2007.”

In his veto message, the president said the bill “lacked fiscal discipline.” While he said he supports funding for water resource projects that yield high economic and environmental returns, he said the bill came in with a higher price tag than he thought was prudent.

NCGA officials said the payback would justify the higher funding levels.

“The continued development of our water resources in an environmentally sound manner will contribute mightily to the well-being of the nation,” it said in the letter. “WRDA represents a meaningful and responsible legislative package that addresses issues such as environmental restoration, navigation, flood control, hurricane protection, water supply, irrigation and beach nourishment and recreation.”

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