Orange County Branch Newsletter
Government Relations Committee
ASCE Legislative Fly-In
By: Isamar Escobar, EIT, Michael Baker International
On March 15-16, ASCE’s annual Legislative Fly-In took place in Washington D.C. and included a pre-conference Younger Member Program, a legislative briefing facilitated by ASCE Government Affairs, and constituent visits with state legislators. The two-day event consisted of 200 ASCE representatives from 49 states, including ASCE leadership, general members, and younger members - with several attending from the ASCE OC Branch!
“I believe that as engineers we need to be actively aware and informed of the policies and issues that affect not only our work, but our lives. As the experts in our fields we have the power to educate the public and strive for change. The ASCE Legislative Fly-In was a great opportunity to become more informed about current issues, network with my peers, and identify ways in which we can take part in Saving America’s Infrastructure,” says Isamar Escobar.
Each year, ASCE selects specific issues that generally have active bills in the House and/or Senate and as a society they take a stance on those issues. The stances are formulated in a series of specific “asks” to each legislator. This year, there were three main issues for which ASCE had an “ask”.
Issue 1: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization
ASCE supports in investing in aviation infrastructure and is insistent that this is done in the near future. ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure graded the nation’s aviation with a “D”. The FAA estimates that the national cost of airport congestion and delays was almost $22 billion in 2012. If current federal funding levels are maintained, the FAA anticipates that the cost of congestion and delays to the economy will rise from $34 billion in 2020 to $63 billion by 2040. ASCE’s asks for this issue are the following:
- Reauthorize the FAA bill.
- Remove or increase the cap on Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) that airports can charge to allow them the flexibility to invest in their own.
- Expand the use of Qualifications-Based Selection for money collected through PCFs (rather than a low bid selection process) to maintain high quality infrastructure.
Issue 2: Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2016
This bill authorizes money to be spent on water resource infrastructure such as dams, levees, and harbors. A two-year WRDA bill was passed in 2014, but none of the money has been appropriated by Congress. Keeping WRDA bills on a two year cycle gives nonfederal sponsors certainty in project development, keeps the cost of projects and the legislation manageable and provides Congress oversight opportunities over important Army Corps programs. ASCE’s asks for this issues are:
- Appropriate money for WRDA 2014.
- Continue approving WRDA bills on a two-year cycle.
- Authorize a Dam Rehabilitation Program in WRDA 2016 to dedicate funding towards the 87,000 US dams whose average is 52 years.
- Expand the Public-Private Partnership (P3) Pilot Program that was developed in the WRDA 2014 bill to allow the Army Corps to access funds needed to make improvements.
Issue 3: Water Infrastructure and 2017 AppropriationsOur nation’s water infrastructure is critical to our health, environment, economy, and public safety. ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure graded the nation’s water resources infrastructure a “D.” ASCE’s Failure to Act economic study found that by 2020, there will be a $59 billion increase of
costs to households due to higher water rates and declining personal incomes. This equals to $900 per family a year. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), which serve as the primary sources of federal funding were cut by $500 million in the 2016 appropriations process. ASCE supports funding the Water infrastructure and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which leverages private sector investments to increase the effectiveness of federal funding. The society also supports H.R. 4468, the Water Infrastructure Investment Trust Fund Act, which is a bipartisan legislation to create a water infrastructure trust fund that would be capitalized by a voluntary $.03 label that any water intensive industry could affix to their packaging and indicate the money is helping America’s clean water. ASCE’s asks for this issue are:
- Fund DWSRF and CW SRF and fully appropriate the money in 2017.
- Fund WIFIA and fully appropriate the money.
- Pass the Water Infrastructure Investment Trust Fund Act to allow businesses to voluntarily invest $0.03 of each beverage sold to water infrastructure.
The second day of the program consisted of legislative visits on Capitol Hill. After being briefed on all the issues, the 200 ASCE members went out to visit with their senators and legislators to inform them about the need for infrastructure funding. Coincidently the day of the visits, the D.C. metro closed down for 24 hours due to emergency maintenance. There couldn’t have been a better example of the need for infrastructure funding and improvements.