April 21, 2020
Senate committee releases draft WRDA bill; hearing witnesses announced
Today, leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee released draft legislation that will be used as a basis for a 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) in the Senate. Introduced by U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020) includes “approximately $17 billion in new federal authorizations.”
In conjunction with AWIA, the committee also released the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020. The bill would reauthorize several Safe Drinking Water Act programs to provide about $2.5 billion in funding and technical assistance for drinking water needs. This bill may move in conjunction with AWIA.
WRDA is the process by which U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works projects are authorized for navigation, flood control, ecosystem restoration and more. WRDA also institutes policy changes for Corps oversight of civil works facilities and infrastructure. Since NWC members own and operate ports, inland waterways, flood control channels, levees, dams, hydropower, and other infrastructure, they are directly impacted by WRDA policy changes.
According to the section-by-section summary of AWIA, some of the issues addressed include:
- Amends Section 1043 to allow non-federal entities to work on feasibility studies and projects;
- Cost-share waiver for “small” or “disadvantaged” communities under the continuing authorities program
- Allows the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to enter into contracts with non-federal sponsors for “water resources, water storage, or irrigation projects…”
- Sec.1022 deals with expediting repairs and recovery from flooding that occurred 2017-2020
- Sec. 1054 amends Section 203 of WRDA 1986 to allow non-federal partners to both oversee a federally authorized feasibility study and/or a study on “modifications or improvements to a project…”
NWC will be undertaking a more comprehensive review of the draft text in the next day or so.
In lieu of a hearing on the draft text, the EPW Committee is holding an “information gathering process” tomorrow, April 22, with five stakeholders via written text. The witnesses are: Niels Hansen, Vice-President, Public Lands Council; Stephen E. Sandherr, Chief Executive Officer; Associated General Contractors of America (AGC is a NWC member); Dan Coughlin, Board Member–Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems, on Behalf of the National Rural Water Association; Diane VanDe Hei, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies; and Tony Pratt, President, American Shore and Beach Preservation Association. The committee will be accepting public comments on the draft bills until May 1.
NWC’s Legislative Policy Committee will be submitting comments on the draft bill. If you are interested in serving on LPC, please let Julie Ufner, NWC President, know. The next call for LPC is Tuesday, April 28.
To read a one-page summary of AWIA, click here.
- To read the draft text for the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act, click here or to read the section by section summary, click here.