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May 29, 2014
Water resources bill passes Congress

On May 22, 2014, in a vote of 91 to 7, the Senate joined the House in approving the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA).  The House had passed the WRRDA (HR 3080) by the even more towering margin of 412 to 4 on May 20, 2014. 

The primary intent of the WRRDA is to improve resistance and response nationwide and in individual communities to flooding and the effects of other extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.  The bill also includes significant environmental provisions to protect ecosystems and key water resources. 

EPW leaders agree

The bipartisan Senate conference report was jointly sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA), respectively the majority and minority leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW).  Along with House leadership, the two senators released the following statement on the WRRDA:

 “We are proud to deliver what the American public wants and needs. This conference report maintains ports and navigation routes for commerce and the movement of goods, provides flood control that protects lives and property, and restores vital ecosystems to preserve our natural heritage. This important measure will strengthen our Nation’s infrastructure and keep America competitive in the global marketplace.”

Key provisions

Provisions of the WRRDA include:

  • Authorizes 34 “critical” Army Corps of Engineers projects that have undergone congressional review. 
  • Establishes minimum authorization levels from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF).  Each year only about half the $1.8 billion collected in the HMTF is used to support projects.  The goal is to achieve full use of the fund by 2025.
  • Provides new authority to the Corps to conduct rapid postdisaster watershed assessments and implement small flood control and ecosystem restoration projects.
  • Authorizes critical flood control and coastal hurricane protection projects across the country, including rebuilding levees in the Natomas Basin of Sacramento, California, and constructing the Morganza to the Gulf hurricane protection project, which will protect coastal communities across Louisiana.
  • Establishes a National Levee Safety Initiative that promotes consistent safety standards and communicates the risks of living behind a levee to the public.
  • Increases funding for dam inspections and maintenance, provides stronger safety requirements, upgrades emergency preparedness plans to prevent dam failures, and improves recovery plans in the event of dam failures.
  • Authorizes numerous ecosystem preservation projects, including four projects critical to the ongoing restoration of the Florida Everglades.
  • Allows the Corps to carry out ocean and coastal resiliency projects in coordination with a broad range of stakeholders, including states, federal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
  • Authorizes projects to control invasive species in the Columbia River, repair water infrastructure in the Western states, restore the environment and navigation on the Middle Mississippi River, and address extreme weather impacts in the Northern Rockies.  Also reauthorizes successful programs to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the Rio Grande River, and the Lower Columbia River.
  • Includes the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovative Act, a 5-year pilot program to allow the Corps and the EPA to provide direct loans and loan guarantees for construction of critical water infrastructure projects, including levee and flood control projects, drinking water systems, and wastewater treatment plants.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the WRRDA will cost $12.3 billion over 10 years.

HR 3080 and related information

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