Congress Unveils Compromise Water Resources Bill


Congressional negotiators released a newly rebranded water infrastructure bill this week after months of hashing out differences between their respective Water Resources Development Acts (S.2848 and H.R.5303) that each chamber passed earlier this year. The new bill, dubbed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act or WIIN Act not only includes a traditional Army Corps project authorization title, but also other water infrastructure programs such as aid to Flint, Mich. to assist in lead pipe replacement and provisions to help California with drought relief.  The American Society of Civil Engineers sent letters of support to House and Senate leadership. The compromise bill also includes a high-hazard dam rehabilitation and repair program, which was included in the original Senate version of WRDA that passed by a vote of 95-3. Here a few selected sections to keep an eye on:

Title I: Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (Army Corps of Engineers projects)

Sec. 1108 Funding for Harbor Maintenance Programs

Changes the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) formula established in WRRDA 2014 to ensure distribution of funds will be 3% higher than the total resources from the year before.  This ensures that distributions continue to increase, year-over-year, until 100% distribution of the funds in the HMTF are used for their intended purpose.

Sec. 1111 Harbor Deepening

Allows for a 75 percent federal share on harbor deepening projects up to 50 feet. With new Post-Panamax size ships entering U.S. ports, this provision allows a 75 percent federal cost-share for new construction (not just maintenance) up to 50 feet deep. The federal share was previously 50 percent for new construction deeper than 45 feet.

Sec. 1122 Beneficial Use of Dredged Material

Establishes a new pilot program for the beneficial use of dredge material. The pilot program allows the Army Corps to undertake 10 projects that would use dredge material for reducing storm surge, promote public safety, enhance aquatic habitat and stabilize shorelines. Importantly, the extra cost of using the material will be covered by the Corps, rather than the non-federal sponsor.

Sec. 1184 Considerations of Measures

Requires the Corps, in consultation with a non-federal project sponsor to consider the use of natural and nature based features for costal water resources projects.

Title II: Water and Wastewater Act of 2016

Sec. 2101 Sense of Congress on Appropriation of Levels

While it’s not compulsory, this section provides language that supports a theme President-Elect Trump supports: increasing appropriations to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

Sec. 2201 Drinking Water Infrastructure

Provides funds to assist Flint, Michigan to replace lead service lines.

Sec. 2202 Sense of Congress

Provides $20,000,000 for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

Title III: Natural Resources

Sec. 3801 Reauthorization of Water Desalination Act of 1996

Reauthorizes $40 million for research, design and construction program to advance desalination.

Sec. 5006 Rehabilitation of High Hazard Potential Dams

Establishes a high hazard dam repair, rehabilitation or removal grant program under the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Authorized at $445 million over ten years.

Stay tuned to the @ASCEgovrel Twitter for progress on the bill in the coming days.

Prev Story: The FAST Act Turns One, But The Work’s Not Done Next Story: Autonomous Vehicles: Still need a road to drive on