Senate expected to vote on $12.3B water bill Thursday

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The Senate is expected to vote on a $12.3 billion bill to boost U.S. ports and waterways on Thursday. 

The measure, known as the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), was approved by the House on a 412-4 vote on Tuesday. 

The Senate is expected to approve the legislation in a similar bipartisan fashion, handing transportation advocates a long-sought funding victory. 

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The WRRDA bill identifies more than $12 billion worth of new water infrastructure projects and authorizes funding for them, though the actual money will be doled out by appropriations committees. 

The House and Senate initially took different approaches to identifying projects that would receive the OK for congressional funding, leading to lengthy negotiations between the chambers that lasted six months. 

The Senate's initial version of the measure relied on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make the water project selections, but Republicans in the House argued that doing so would delegate too much responsibility for federal spending away from Congress.

Among the projects identified for funding in the final water bill agreement are long-sought projects to deepen ports in Jacksonville, Fla.; Savannah, Ga.; and Boston. Transportation advocates have warned that U.S. ports need to be expanded to be able to handle larger ships that are expected to come through the Panama Canal after the Central American channel is deepened next year. 

If the bill is sent to Obama and he signs it, it will be the first water funding legislation to become law since 2007.