On September 15th, the Senate passed its version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), legislation aimed at improving America’s water infrastructure. The legislation (S. 2848) passed the Senate by a vote of 94-3 with the lone ‘no’ votes coming from Senators Flake (AZ), Lee (UT), and Sasse (NE). Apparently these Senators feel the water infrastructure in their state is sufficient despite the estimated $13.1 billion, $6.6 billion, and $4.8 billion each of their respective states need to bring their clean water and drinking water infrastructure up to current standards. Perhaps they know something no one else seems to know: where their states can find that kind of money in their annual budgets.
Traditionally, WRDA has been directed at water navigation projects like ports, levees, and waterways projects, but the Senate’s version in 2016 broadens the scope of WRDA to include clean water, drinking water, sewer, and wastewater projects that need significant investment. This is a change the Clean Water Council fully supports.
Many of the Senate version’s highlights will substantially benefit America’s water infrastructure. The major investments include:
- $70 million capitalization of WIFIA- OMB says this will be leveraged into $4.2 billion in water infrastructure loans.
- $300 million for lead-pipe replacement.
- $1.4 billion for small and disadvantaged communities to build water and wastewater services compliant with the Drinking Water Act.
- $100 million for drinking water infrastructure emergencies.
- The creation of a Water Infrastructure Trust Fund capitalized by a voluntary labeling on bottling. This is Rep. Blumenauer’s bill that NUCA has regularly supported and will create a new funding source for water infrastructure projects.
- Authorizes 25 Army Corps. of Engineers water infrastructure projects in 17 states.
These are significant achievements and CWC and our advocacy partners should be proud, but understand that the fight has not yet been won. The House must still act.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman said last week that he hopes to bring the House’s version (H.R. 5303) to the floor this week (Sept. 19-23). The House version authorizes 28 Army Corps. projects but does little more.
Make no mistake, we encourage the House to act to pass WRDA, but the CWC believes the House version misses an opportunity to create significant economic stimulation and job creation through water infrastructure investment. The significant reforms, investment, and program authorizations included in the Senate version invests in America’s health, safety, transportation, and, ultimately, future by prioritizing a broad spectrum on water infrastructure projects. CWC will be supporting and advocating in favor of S. 2848 and urge our partners to do the same.