Policy Brief

Support Authorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

ACTION NEEDED:

Urge Congress to pass a WRDA bill this year and move back to a regular two-year authorization cycle.

BACKGROUND:

Historically, WRDA bills authorize water resources studies and projects and set policies for navigation, flood control, hydropower, recreation, water supply and emergency management for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps). WRDA legislation is often passed on a biennial basis and addresses county interests related to ports, inland waterways, levees, dams, wetlands, watersheds and coastal restoration. However, over the past decade, only three WRDA-related bills – in 2007, 2014 and 2016 – have been enacted into law.

The current authorization will expire at the end of 2018. Congress must either extend it or pass another authorization for new projects and studies.

As owners, users and regulators of water resources and infrastructure, counties are directly impacted by the policies and funding authorized in the legislation. We often work with the Army Corps as a non-federal partner to strengthen local infrastructure.

On June 6, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its bipartisan WRDA bill, Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (H.R. 8), on a 408 to 2 vote. The bill would authorize new Army Corps projects and studies. Additionally, the bill directs the National Academy of Sciences to consult with the Army Corps and other federal agencies to study the potential impacts of moving the Army Corps’ Civil Works division out from the Department of Defense and “to a new or existing agency or sub-agency of the federal government” to carry out authorized WRDA projects and studies.

However, the bill does not include provisions to revise the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) or policies to streamline the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or any other Army Corps permitting programs.

Although passed out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the U.S. Senate has yet to vote on its WRDA bill, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 2800). Like the House version, the Senate bill would authorize new Army Corps projects and studies and does not include provisions to revise HMTF or address NEPA. However, the bill would create programmatic changes to Army Corps programs. Specifically, the bill would change the way Army Corps projects are vetted and approved, create a board of appeals for water storage projects and codify the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Planning process. The measure would also authorize a multitude of federal agency studies on challenges to implementing a Water Infrastructure Financing Innovations Act (WIFIA) program in the Army Corps, how WIFIA can be better used by rural, disadvantaged and tribal communities, examine how the Army Corps can better address funding in urban areas and examine how the Army Corps can increase transparency with state and local partners.

KEY TALKING POINTS:

  • As owners, users and regulators of water resources and infrastructure, counties are directly impacted by the policies and funding authorized in the legislation. We often work with the Army Corps as a non-federal partner to strengthen local infrastructure.
  • NACo supports preserving and maintaining current federal law that provides for federal participation through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a long-standing partnership with state and local governments for funding, implementing, and maintaining essential and environmentally sound navigation, harbor, beach management, and flow control projects across this nation.
  • NACo requests that counties be consulted before the federal or state government undertakes water resource projects within the jurisdiction of the county.
  • Additionally, as local government are a key part of the intergovernmental process, NACo supports WRDA provisions that will strengthen this relationship.
  • Request Congress and the Administration enact a WRDA bill this year and move back to a two year authorization cycle.

For further information, contact: Julie Ufner at 202.942.4269 or jufner@naco.org

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