WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved legislation that authorizes spending on inland waterways and port infrastructure, and tackles flood protection and measures to limit damage from storms.
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) passed by 91 to 7 after being approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday in a lopsided vote of 412 to 4.
It now goes to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it into law.
The $12.3 billion bill, the first major U.S. waterways legislation in seven years, authorizes 34 projects across the country, from deepening a port in Jacksonville, Florida, to dredging and expanding Boston Harbor, to funding for oyster restoration prospects on Chesapeake Bay.
The bill also defunds some $18 billion in old, inactive projects authorized in prior legislation.
Farm groups, among others, had urged lawmakers to pass the bill as a way to improve the infrastructure used to move millions of tons of U.S. grain to port for export.
"The ports, channels, locks, dams and other infrastructure that support our waterways transportation are vital to America's ability to provide affordable agricultural products at home and abroad," said the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also backed the bill, which it said would "kick-start strategic investment" in ports and waterways, create jobs and boost international trade.
Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Eric Beech