Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA)

Last month the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee agreed 19-1 to advance S. 2848, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA).

Ports and waterways in the U.S. moved more than 2.3 billion tons of goods in 2014. These ports and waterways require dredging, maintenance and modernization to ensure the efficient, safe and timely movement of goods.

WRDA authorizes 25 Army Corps projects, which have undergone congressional scrutiny and are the subjects of completed Chief of Engineers reports, in 17 states. The bill authorizes improvements to ports around the country that will help expand the flow of commerce and improve goods movement.

The bill builds on the reforms in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) by clarifying the targets for increased HMTF funding, extending prioritization for donor and energy transfer ports and emerging harbors, and making clear that the Corps can maintain harbors of refuge.

The bill also provides investment in the country’s aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, assists poor and disadvantaged communities in meeting public health standards under the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, and promotes technologies to address drought and other critical water resource needs. The bill also responds to the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, by providing emergency assistance to Flint and other similar communities across the country facing drinking water contamination.

The one ‘nay’ vote was over concerns that the bill doesn’t address EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures program that requires farms to develop and implement spill prevention plans for oil stored on site.  The 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act contained a provision requiring a study on the issue.