Senate Passes Water Resources, Stopgap Funding Bills Before Adjourning

Before adjourning for the year early Saturday morning, the U.S. Senate passed the 2017 water resources bill that provides needed funding for the Savannah River port deepening project, along with a measure that avoids a government shutdown by funding the federal government through April 28th, 2017.

Formally titled the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, the water bill passed the Senate by a 78-21 margin. Significantly for Georgia, the measure provides for the federal government to pay 75% of the costs incurred in deepening harbor expansion projects, including the Port of Savannah, to a depth of 50 feet. The Savannah project will deepen the harbor to 48 feet, which is necessary to allow the larger “Panamax” ships to access the port. The measure also contains a provision seen as favorable to Georgians that prevents Congress from interfering in the longstanding water dispute between the Peach State, Alabama, and Florida.

Senior Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson hailed the passage of the measure, saying in a statement,

Ensuring better funding for the deepening of the Port of Savannah is good news for Georgia. Keeping this project on track has required a nonstop effort from countless leaders to ensure we are progressing, and this law will help to save the state of Georgia millions of dollars towards this project. This project is a win for trade, a win for the economy and a win for the hundreds of thousands of jobs supported by the Port of Savannah.

Senator David Perdue was also enthusiastic about the measures passage.

Water infrastructure is critical to our overall economic growth. In order for us to compete globally, our ports, waterways, and transportation corridors must be maintained and expanded in a timely manner. Our ports are also on the front lines when it comes to protecting our homeland from foreign enemies, therefore, it is vital they are fully functional. Congress’ action will help support the Port of Savannah, which is the fastest growing port in the country and has an economic impact that reaches around the world.

Additionally, I am proud to have worked with our Georgia Congressional Delegation to get Congress out of the ongoing tristate water dispute between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, which should be resolved at the state level.

Senator Perdue, who has made a significant issue of the nation’s debt and Congress’s inability to bring the debut under control, was not as happy with the passage of the temporary funding bill. Calling the measure a patch, Perdue issued this statement:

Here we go again. For the 19th consecutive year, Washington has not funded the federal government on time. As the current continuing resolution is expiring in the midnight hour, Congress is once again trying to pass a temporary fix three months after the beginning of the current fiscal year. This is ridiculous. In fact, Congress has only completed the full budget process four times in the past 42 years. Not being from the Washington bubble, I see our government’s out-of-control spending so clearly. We are well past the tipping point in this debt crisis and both political parties are to blame. This is a complete dereliction of duty and demonstrates how broken the system is and why our national debt will soon surpass $20 trillion.

Over the past year, I have heard every excuse under the sun from my Senate colleagues about how this is the only way to get things done, when we all know it’s not. Every other entity in America must balance its budget and do so on time, and Congress is no different. Soon we will have a new president who is an outsider businessman that values budgets and the certainty they bring to businesses and families. I look forward to working with President-elect Donald J. Trump to completely change Washington’s funding process so we can finally begin to set real priorities and debate serious policies that produce results for all Americans.

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Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

FWIW, I understand the bill will also substantially fund the Charleston port being deepened to 54 feet at the port’s entrance, and 52 feet at the port itself.