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Committee Leaders Release Senate WRDA Bill

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    Committee Leaders Release Senate WRDA Bill

    On Tuesday, April 26, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee released the text of its Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) (S. 2848) authorization bill. Historically, WRDA bills authorize water resources projects and policies for navigation, flood control, hydropower, recreation, water supply, and emergency management for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. The legislation is often passed on a biennial basis and tends to address county interests related to ports, inland waterways, levees, vegetation, wetlands, watersheds, coastal restoration, safe drinking water and clean water infrastructure.

    Congress last passed a WRDA bill, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA; P.L. 113-121), in June of 2014. That authorization is set to expire September 30, 2016. By that date, Congress must either extend WRRDA or pass another authorization. The EPW bill is the first step in that process.

    As owners, users and regulators of water resources and infrastructure, counties are directly impacted by the policies and funding authorized in the legislation. In addition, the EPW committee utilizes this particular authorization to address the recent lead crisis in Flint, Mich. The bill includes money not just for Flint but for communities across the country dealing with aging and failing water infrastructure. Further information on these provisions and the bill overall can be found below.

    Army Corps Projects: The Senate’s bill authorizes $9 billion for 25 new Army Corps (Corps) projects, including Los Angeles River restoration efforts, harbor work in Charleston, S.C., and flood protection projects in New Jersey and California, while creating programmatic changes to the Corps’ project delivery process. Specifically, the bill authorizes the Corps to provide technical assistance to a non-federal project sponsor (such as a county) that is developing its own feasibility study, expands the existing authority of the Corps to accept funds from states and local governments to carry out water resources projects to apply to all projects (not just flood control projects), allows the Corps to establish partnerships with non-federal interests to address the backlog of maintenance at Corps projects and amends the Corps’ existing authority to accept funds from non-federal interests by removing requirements pertaining to the appropriation of funds. 

    Funding for Harbor Maintenance Programs: The Senate’s WRDA bill clarifies the target appropriations from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) set forth in WRRDA 2014 in the event that the prior year appropriation was a decrease. The HMTF collects a user fee levied on the value of imported goods. The collected fees are intended to support the operations and maintenance funding needed for the nation’s deep draft and coastal waterways. Historically, HMTF collections have far exceeded funds appropriated for harbor maintenance, resulting in a large and growing “surplus” of approximately $8 billion. WRRDA 2014 included significant reforms aimed at expending more of the HTMF for its intended purposes, setting targets beginning at expending 67 percent of HMTF receipts in FY 2015 to achieving full use by the year 2025. The language in the Senate’s bill further supports the goals established by WRRDA 2014. The bill also extends the 10 percent set aside from the HMTF for emerging harbors through 2025.

    Safe Drinking Water: The Senate’s bill amends the revolving loan program under the Safe Drinking Water Act to make “planning, design and associated preconstruction activities, replacement or rehabilitation of aging treatment, storage or distribution facilities and public water system security measures” as eligible for assistance. The bill encourages states to prioritize sustainability and makes the implementation of source water protection plans an eligible use of assistance from a state revolving loan fund. Other reforms are included in the bill that pertain to the reduction of and response to lead in drinking water, which are referenced in greater detail in subsequent sections below.

    Clean Water Infrastructure: The Senate’s bill reauthorizes section 221 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which authorizes $1.8 billion for grants to address sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows and storm water discharges. The bill also requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to inform local governments of the opportunity to prepare integrated plans and establishes an Office of Municipal Ombudsman that will notify communities of the opportunity to prepare integrated plans in the context of consent decrees or administrative orders. Currently, the integrated planning approach offers a voluntary opportunity for a municipality to propose ways to meet multiple CWA requirements by identifying efficiencies from separate wastewater and storm water programs and sequencing investments so that the highest priority projects come first. The Senate’s bill encourages the integrated planning approach and tasks the EPA with deploying further resources and assistance to facilitate that goal.

    Innovative Financing: The Senate’s bill amends the public private partnership program established by WRRDA 2014 to remove the requirement that it be authorized by an appropriations bill. The bill also clarifies the scope of projects eligible for assistance under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation (WIFIA) program and authorizes the financing of fees if the applicant is a small community. In addition to exiting innovative financing options, the bill establishes a trust fund for water infrastructure that would be used for capitalization grants for the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.

    National Drought Resilience Guidelines: The Senate’s bill directs the EPA, in conjunction with the Secretary of Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other federal agency heads along with state and local governments to develop non-regulatory national drought resilience guidelines relating to drought preparedness planning and investments for communities, water utilities and other water users and providers.

    Drinking Water Disaster Relief and Infrastructure Investments: The Senate’s bill authorizes emergency assistance for communities that are declared to have the presence of lead or other contaminants in a public drinking water supply system. Such assistance includes loans to eligible public water supply systems from the state drinking water revolving loan funds to address lead and other contaminants in drinking water, including the repair and replacement of private as well as public drinking water infrastructure. The EPA is also authorized to use WIFIA authority to make secured loans for emergency situations related to drinking water contaminants.  The bill provides $100 million in assistance to states with emergency drinking water situations through the drinking water state revolving loan fund program and $70 million for credit subsides to allow EPA to make secured loans for infrastructure investments under the WIFIA program.

    Registry for Lead Exposure and Advisory Committee: The Senate’s bill authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a voluntary lead exposure registry and authorizes an advisory committee coordinated through the Centers for Disease Control to review federal programs that address lead exposure and identify research needs, best practices and effective services.

    Funding for Certain Childhood Health Programs: The Senate’s bill provides funding for the following authorized programs:

    • $10 million for the childhood lead poisoning prevention program authorized under the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 237b-1).
    • $10 million for the Healthy Homes Initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
    • $10 million for the Healthy Start Initiative authorized under the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 254c-8).

    Other Programs and Authorized Funding: The Senate’s bill also establishes and authorizes a number of other programs that may provide funding for counties to address an array of water resources and infrastructure needs. Including:

    • Non-Federal Interest Dredging Authority: The Senate’s bill establishes a pilot program authorizing a non-federal interest to maintain a federal navigation project with its own equipment and personnel, allowing for the reimbursement of personnel time directly related to performance of work.
    • Rehabilitation of Existing Levees: The Senate’s bill authorizes $125 million for a pilot program for the Corps to immediately address coastal levees that are subsiding.
    • Rehabilitation of High Hazard Potential Dams: The Senate’s bill authorizes $530 million over ten years for a Federal Emergency Management Agency program for the rehabilitation of high hazard potential dams.
    • Safe Drinking Water Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities: The Senate’s bill authorizes a total of $1.4 billion over five years for a grant program to assist small and disadvantaged communities in complying with requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
    • Reducing Lead in Drinking Water: The Senate’s bill authorizes a total of $300 million over five years for a grant program to assist with the replacement of lead service lines, testing, planning, corrosion control and education. (Note: Partial lead service line replacement would not be eligible under this program.)
    • Lead Testing in School and Child Care Drinking Water: The Senate’s bill authorizes a total of $100 million for grants to carry out a voluntary school and child care lead testing program.
    • Clean Water Small Treatment Works: The Senate’s bill authorizes $75 million over five years to establish a technical assistance program for small treatment works (meaning a publically owned treatment works serving not more than 10,000 individuals) that would be carried out by qualified nonprofit technical service providers.

    The EPW Committee is scheduled to mark-up the bill on Thursday, April 28. To review the bill’s text, click here. For further information on the bill provided by the committee, click here. NACo will provide continued updates on the WRDA authorization process. 

    On Tuesday, April 26, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee released the text of its Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) (S. 2848) authorization bill.
    2016-04-27
    Blog
    2016-04-27

On Tuesday, April 26, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee released the text of its Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) (S. 2848) authorization bill. Historically, WRDA bills authorize water resources projects and policies for navigation, flood control, hydropower, recreation, water supply, and emergency management for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. The legislation is often passed on a biennial basis and tends to address county interests related to ports, inland waterways, levees, vegetation, wetlands, watersheds, coastal restoration, safe drinking water and clean water infrastructure.

Congress last passed a WRDA bill, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA; P.L. 113-121), in June of 2014. That authorization is set to expire September 30, 2016. By that date, Congress must either extend WRRDA or pass another authorization. The EPW bill is the first step in that process.

As owners, users and regulators of water resources and infrastructure, counties are directly impacted by the policies and funding authorized in the legislation. In addition, the EPW committee utilizes this particular authorization to address the recent lead crisis in Flint, Mich. The bill includes money not just for Flint but for communities across the country dealing with aging and failing water infrastructure. Further information on these provisions and the bill overall can be found below.

Army Corps Projects: The Senate’s bill authorizes $9 billion for 25 new Army Corps (Corps) projects, including Los Angeles River restoration efforts, harbor work in Charleston, S.C., and flood protection projects in New Jersey and California, while creating programmatic changes to the Corps’ project delivery process. Specifically, the bill authorizes the Corps to provide technical assistance to a non-federal project sponsor (such as a county) that is developing its own feasibility study, expands the existing authority of the Corps to accept funds from states and local governments to carry out water resources projects to apply to all projects (not just flood control projects), allows the Corps to establish partnerships with non-federal interests to address the backlog of maintenance at Corps projects and amends the Corps’ existing authority to accept funds from non-federal interests by removing requirements pertaining to the appropriation of funds. 

Funding for Harbor Maintenance Programs: The Senate’s WRDA bill clarifies the target appropriations from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) set forth in WRRDA 2014 in the event that the prior year appropriation was a decrease. The HMTF collects a user fee levied on the value of imported goods. The collected fees are intended to support the operations and maintenance funding needed for the nation’s deep draft and coastal waterways. Historically, HMTF collections have far exceeded funds appropriated for harbor maintenance, resulting in a large and growing “surplus” of approximately $8 billion. WRRDA 2014 included significant reforms aimed at expending more of the HTMF for its intended purposes, setting targets beginning at expending 67 percent of HMTF receipts in FY 2015 to achieving full use by the year 2025. The language in the Senate’s bill further supports the goals established by WRRDA 2014. The bill also extends the 10 percent set aside from the HMTF for emerging harbors through 2025.

Safe Drinking Water: The Senate’s bill amends the revolving loan program under the Safe Drinking Water Act to make “planning, design and associated preconstruction activities, replacement or rehabilitation of aging treatment, storage or distribution facilities and public water system security measures” as eligible for assistance. The bill encourages states to prioritize sustainability and makes the implementation of source water protection plans an eligible use of assistance from a state revolving loan fund. Other reforms are included in the bill that pertain to the reduction of and response to lead in drinking water, which are referenced in greater detail in subsequent sections below.

Clean Water Infrastructure: The Senate’s bill reauthorizes section 221 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which authorizes $1.8 billion for grants to address sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows and storm water discharges. The bill also requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to inform local governments of the opportunity to prepare integrated plans and establishes an Office of Municipal Ombudsman that will notify communities of the opportunity to prepare integrated plans in the context of consent decrees or administrative orders. Currently, the integrated planning approach offers a voluntary opportunity for a municipality to propose ways to meet multiple CWA requirements by identifying efficiencies from separate wastewater and storm water programs and sequencing investments so that the highest priority projects come first. The Senate’s bill encourages the integrated planning approach and tasks the EPA with deploying further resources and assistance to facilitate that goal.

Innovative Financing: The Senate’s bill amends the public private partnership program established by WRRDA 2014 to remove the requirement that it be authorized by an appropriations bill. The bill also clarifies the scope of projects eligible for assistance under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation (WIFIA) program and authorizes the financing of fees if the applicant is a small community. In addition to exiting innovative financing options, the bill establishes a trust fund for water infrastructure that would be used for capitalization grants for the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.

National Drought Resilience Guidelines: The Senate’s bill directs the EPA, in conjunction with the Secretary of Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other federal agency heads along with state and local governments to develop non-regulatory national drought resilience guidelines relating to drought preparedness planning and investments for communities, water utilities and other water users and providers.

Drinking Water Disaster Relief and Infrastructure Investments: The Senate’s bill authorizes emergency assistance for communities that are declared to have the presence of lead or other contaminants in a public drinking water supply system. Such assistance includes loans to eligible public water supply systems from the state drinking water revolving loan funds to address lead and other contaminants in drinking water, including the repair and replacement of private as well as public drinking water infrastructure. The EPA is also authorized to use WIFIA authority to make secured loans for emergency situations related to drinking water contaminants.  The bill provides $100 million in assistance to states with emergency drinking water situations through the drinking water state revolving loan fund program and $70 million for credit subsides to allow EPA to make secured loans for infrastructure investments under the WIFIA program.

Registry for Lead Exposure and Advisory Committee: The Senate’s bill authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a voluntary lead exposure registry and authorizes an advisory committee coordinated through the Centers for Disease Control to review federal programs that address lead exposure and identify research needs, best practices and effective services.

Funding for Certain Childhood Health Programs: The Senate’s bill provides funding for the following authorized programs:

  • $10 million for the childhood lead poisoning prevention program authorized under the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 237b-1).
  • $10 million for the Healthy Homes Initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • $10 million for the Healthy Start Initiative authorized under the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 254c-8).

Other Programs and Authorized Funding: The Senate’s bill also establishes and authorizes a number of other programs that may provide funding for counties to address an array of water resources and infrastructure needs. Including:

  • Non-Federal Interest Dredging Authority: The Senate’s bill establishes a pilot program authorizing a non-federal interest to maintain a federal navigation project with its own equipment and personnel, allowing for the reimbursement of personnel time directly related to performance of work.
  • Rehabilitation of Existing Levees: The Senate’s bill authorizes $125 million for a pilot program for the Corps to immediately address coastal levees that are subsiding.
  • Rehabilitation of High Hazard Potential Dams: The Senate’s bill authorizes $530 million over ten years for a Federal Emergency Management Agency program for the rehabilitation of high hazard potential dams.
  • Safe Drinking Water Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities: The Senate’s bill authorizes a total of $1.4 billion over five years for a grant program to assist small and disadvantaged communities in complying with requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • Reducing Lead in Drinking Water: The Senate’s bill authorizes a total of $300 million over five years for a grant program to assist with the replacement of lead service lines, testing, planning, corrosion control and education. (Note: Partial lead service line replacement would not be eligible under this program.)
  • Lead Testing in School and Child Care Drinking Water: The Senate’s bill authorizes a total of $100 million for grants to carry out a voluntary school and child care lead testing program.
  • Clean Water Small Treatment Works: The Senate’s bill authorizes $75 million over five years to establish a technical assistance program for small treatment works (meaning a publically owned treatment works serving not more than 10,000 individuals) that would be carried out by qualified nonprofit technical service providers.

The EPW Committee is scheduled to mark-up the bill on Thursday, April 28. To review the bill’s text, click here. For further information on the bill provided by the committee, click here. NACo will provide continued updates on the WRDA authorization process. 

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