Washington, D.C. – Alaska Congressman Don Young and the U.S. House of Representatives today passed H.R. 5303, the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) of 2016, bipartisan legislation to promote economic competitiveness and strengthen the nation’s water transportation and infrastructure needs – including harbors and ports in coastal states like Alaska.
H.R. 5303, which passed by a margin of 399 to 25, contains a number of Alaska and Arctic specific provisions championed by Congressman Young, including $26 million and $29 million in authorizations for harbor projects in Little Diomede and the City of Craig, respectively. In addition, the bill makes important reforms to the Army Corps of Engineers current system for evaluating small, remote and subsistence port and harbor projects, works to recognize the value of a potential Arctic Port, and broadens non-federal sponsors of water infrastructure projects to include Alaska Native Corporations. Congressman Young described the bill in the simplest of terms:
“WRDA is about new infrastructure and new jobs. It means opportunities for our residents, critical infrastructure for our coastal communities, and economic development for our state.”
In a call for bipartisanship and cooperation on the legislation that ultimately freed the Senate from gridlock on the year end funding package, Young took to the House floor to speak in favor of the bill – saying it would allow Congress to “finish this project for the people of America.”
Congressman Don Young speaking on the House floor in favor of H.R. 5303 (click here to watch).
“This bill is a good bill. I just ask all of you – you know, we’re getting close to the end of this session and a lame duck too. This isn’t perfect for everyone. It’s not perfect for me in some cases. But let’s get a piece of legislation done without nitpicking it and say, “well, I didn’t get what I wanted…,” said Congressman Young yesterday on the House floor. “This is a good piece of legislation. It’ll create a better system of our infrastructure – for water, harbor and ports and other drinking water too. It’s a legislative package that’s been put together with a lot of hard work with staff. As usual, we get into this battle – “Well, I don’t want it. It’s a Democrat bill, it’s a Republican bill.” We ought to think of this as a House bill; a bill that can do the job. It will come out of this House, it will go over to the Senate and we’ll have a Conference. We’ll have another chance to finish this project for the people of America. So I’m asking us not to get into a little bit of nitpicking and get a good piece of legislation such as this passed.”
The following reforms and provisions of Alaskan importance were supported by Congressman Young in the 2016 House WRDA:
- LITTLE DIOMEDE, AK: The legislation authorizes the construction of a harbor in Little Diomede, AK: $26,015,000
- CRAIG, AK: The legislation authorizes the construction of a harbor in Craig, AK: $29,062,000
- CITY OF VALDEZ: The legislation includes a bill sponsored by Congressman Young, H.R. 5087, which removes a navigational servitude on waterfront land in Valdez that currently impedes economic development of the property. The bill removes the Federal Government’s taint on title in order to allow investment prospects for lands that were created due to dredging disposal from the construction of the harbor.
- SMALL REMOTE AND SUBSISTENCE HARBORS: The legislation makes reforms to the current system the Corps of Engineers uses to evaluate small, remote, and subsistence port and harbor projects, by recognizing the regional benefits for justification of the project. Increasing capabilities at a hub community will dramatically lower the costs of goods throughout the region, in many circumstances.
- EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES: Allows Alaska Native Corporations to develop water infrastructure projects as non-federal sponsors.
- ARCTIC PORTS: Congressman Young successfully included a two-part amendment to H.R. 5303 in Committee to help with a justification for an Arctic port: one change recognizes the value of a potential Arctic Port to the surrounding communities, and another to enables Corps to consider the national security benefits of an Arctic port.