WASHINGTON — Arkansas Sens. Mark Pryor and John Boozman on Wednesday supported reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act that they say would strengthen America’s water infrastructure.
"If we want to stay competitive in today’s global economy, then we need to make infrastructure investments, and navigable waterways are a huge part of the equation," said Pryor, a Democrat.
The Senate voted 83-14 in favor of the bill after a week of floor debate that saw more than a dozen amendments approved.
Boozman won support for an amendment that would add the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the "America the Beautiful" recreational pass program that has helped spruce up recreational facilities on federal lands from Alaska to Virginia.
In 2004, Congress approved the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to enable land management agencies to retain and spend recreation fees where they were collected.
The law covered five federal agencies that oversee most of the nation’s federal lands but did not include the Corps of Engineers. The omission was particularly glaring for Arkansas, where the agency has more than two dozen recreation areas along the Arkansas River, as well as by lakes in the Ozarks and in southwestern Arkansas.
"Allowing the Corps to offer passes to customers will encourage continued use of federal recreation sites," Boozman said.
The Senate also agreed to a Pryor amendment to ease pending regulations for farmers regarding fuel storage.
Under his amendment, farms would be exempted from pending Environmental Protection Agency regulations aimed at limiting fuel spills on farms. Farms that store less than 2,500 gallons of fuel above ground would be exempted, and those storing up to 20,000 gallons of fuel could self certify their spill containment plans.
"I won’t allow our farmers to get bogged down by costly certification processes that they don’t need," Pryor said.
The Obama administration is critical of the overall legislation, saying it does not address a $60 billion construction backlog for Corps projects except to add to it.
The legislation would sanction more than 20 new Corps projects, some aimed at making ports more accessible in line with 2015 completion of a widened Panama Canal.