INHOFE LAUDS PASSAGE OF WRDA BILL

WASHINGTON, DC - Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, held a full committee business meeting today passing S. 728, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) which passed by voice vote and includes several priorities for the State of Oklahoma. Additionally, the committee passed the nomination of Steve Johnson for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency by a vote of 17-1.

This is a victory for many important Oklahoma initiatives included in this bill.” Senator Inhofe said. “First, the reauthorization of WRDA - will go far in helping Oklahoma and all other states as they work toward meeting their critical water needs. The bill aids in providing needed funding for water resources development and protection nationwide, including our Port of Catoosa.

“I am very pleased with the bipartisan work accomplished today by the Environment and Public Works Committee,” Senator Inhofe said. “Now that we have passed the nomination of Steve Johnson as our new EPA administrator through committee I look forward to moving it to the floor for a vote as soon as possible. It is a testament to Steve’s hard work in public service that he has been nominated to lead the EPA and I expect strong bipartisan support for him from the full Senate. I commend the other nominees as well for their steadfast service to our nation and look forward to swift passage for them as well.”.

S. 728 - Water Resources Development Act:

McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation Channel

This bill directs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue toward construction of the 12-foot navigation channel leading to the Port of Catoosa.

It does our state of Oklahoma no good to have 12 feet of depth along the entire channel except the last three miles that lead into the Port of Catoosa,” Inhofe said. “The deeper channel will accommodate heavier barges carrying increased loads opening Oklahoma to a sector of business previously unattainable. Our wheat farmers out west and many others in our state will be able to take advantage of an extremely cost effective method of transportation. In addition, this deeper channel will keep the Port of Catoosa viable well into the future.”

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James (Jerry) Goodwin, Chairman of the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority said, “This is wonderful news for Oklahoma’s ports and terminals. It will add jobs through furthering the development of our maritime industry by helping to insure that the 12 channel becomes a reality. Oklahoma is fortunate to have Senator Inhofe as Chairman of this critically important committee whose efforts significantly enhance the development of our waterway and protection of the environment.”

Agreement Between Corps of Engineers and City of Edmond regarding Arcadia Lake

In 1979 the city of Edmond became partners with the Corps of Engineers for recreational development and water storage on Lake Arcadia. A dispute arose between the two parties in 1996, regarding whether the city of Edmond was liable for the future water payments until such time as they made use of the water. Edmond began to use the water in 1999 and the city paid the Corps $27 million. However, the Corps contends that the city of Edmond owes back interest and continues to charge the city interest from November 1996 to present. Language in this bill would clarify that the city of Edmond is not liable for the interest from November 1996 to October 1999 since the city was not using the water during that time.

Waurika Lake Project

In WRDA 99 (1999) language was added to overrule $2.9 million in fees the Corps of Engineers insisted Waurika pay. The Corps of Engineers assessed these fees to the Waurika Project Master Conservancy District (WPMCD) after the completion of the lake in the 1980s. Senator Inhofe believes that WPMCD should not be held financially responsible for the Corps’ negligence. After WRDA 99 the Corps discovered an accounting error, and claimed it had inadvertently undercharged the WPMCD for costs associated with a land purchase related to the water project in the early 1980s. Under the terms of the construction contract, the WPMCD is required to pay all costs associated with building the project, including the full cost of the land purchases. This legislation clarifies that Waurika is obligated to pay the amount that they agreed to pay when the project was completed.

Oklahoma Lake Demonstration

This bill would remove reversionary interest language on land previously conveyed to the State of Oklahoma at Lake Texoma. The reversionary clause is hindering local plans for further recreational development.

Abandoned Mines -- RAMS Program

The WRDA bill authorizes the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to spend $45 million a year nationwide for planning, technical assistance and the remediation of abandoned hard rock mines.

The Water Resources Development Act now goes to the full Senate for approval.