Late last week the federal government acted like ... the federal government! Both houses of Congress overwhelmingly passed a bill that it is crucial to economic and environmental progress along the coasts and inland waterways.

The $12.3 billion Water Resources Reform and Development Act - passed 412-4 in the House and 91-7 in the Senate - provides overdue funding for a host of infrastructure projects. It will help deepen ports in Jacksonville and Boston, improve aging locks and other facilities on inland waterways that move millions of tons of grain and other goods to ports, and help flood-prone areas along the Mississippi River and other waterways better protect themselves.

It also includes funds to help prevent migration of the highly destructive invasive species, the Asian carp, into Lake Erie. And it provides about $1 billion for restoration work on the Louisiana gulf coast, which is crucial to preventing a repeat of the 2005 inundation of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The bill also includes reforms. It eliminates about $18 billion worth of dormant projects that had been authorized more than seven years ago. And it alters the application process for future projects to limit cost and the amount of time for approval or rejection.

Now that Congress has waded into badly needed water projects, it should further boost the economy and environment by attending to other neglected infrastructure needs.