House Passes Comprehensive Water Resources Bill
Washington, DC – Today in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Garret Graves (R – South Louisiana) boosted House passage of S.612 - the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which included Graves’ provisions to reverse the US Corps of Engineers’ culture of delay, expedite completion of critical flood protection projects in areas like Livingston, Ascension and East Baton Rouge Parishes, and accelerate funding toward the completion of the Comite and Amite River flood protection projects.
S. 612 is the legislative vehicle for the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA 2016).
“The Corps of Engineers’ is one of the most ineffective government agencies out there,” said Graves. “Flood protection projects dating back decades - some of which would have lessened the severity of the devastating, flood event that ravaged Louisiana in August – don’t look much different today than they did decades ago. It’s inexcusable.”
Graves’ amendments included in the legislation direct the Corps to accelerate $150 million in flood protection projects in Livingston, East Baton Rouge, Ascension and other parishes.
“Putting the burden of the Corps’ failure on residents in these areas is unacceptable – which is essentially the case as home and business owners are stuck with the bill trying to rebuild their lives after the flooding,” he added. “Instead, we need to get these projects finished to lower the base flood elevation of these communities. Our amendment helps accomplish that and will provide a path forward for homeowners to get back in their homes and on the road to full recovery.”
Graves worked to hold the Corps accountable resulting in strict deadlines and reporting requirements for projects designed to mitigate coastal land loss and make our communities safer and more resilient.
“In the state of Louisiana, we’ve lost 1900 square miles of our coast,” Graves continued. “We’ve been waiting decades for the Corps to build projects designed to fix it, but all we get is lip service about how it’s ‘still being considered.’ Meanwhile, the coast continues to disappear and our communities become increasingly vulnerable. The Corps should not take years upon years to make decisions so vital to our state.”
Graves, a leader on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, played a significant role in shaping WRDA 2016 dating back to the start of the 114th Congress and successfully fought for multiple improvements to policies impacting how the Corps delivers water resources projects.
Highlights of Graves’ impacts on WRDA 2016 include:
- Expediting the process for flood protection and coastal restoration projects.
- Improving local input and control of projects.
- Directing the Corps to accelerate $150 million in flood protection projects across south Louisiana.
- Expediting wetlands mitigation.
- Providing the opportunity to jumpstart coastal restoration by creating new Environmental Banks in Louisiana.
- Reducing state cost share of deepening the Mississippi River to 25%.
- Allowing ports to be reimbursed for dredging costs.
- Moving the West Shore Hurricane Protection project forward.
Other provisions included in the bill will have significant impact in Louisiana. Things like:
- Advancing recovery efforts for oyster banks in the Gulf.
- Expediting Comite and Amite flood control projects.
- Authorizing the Southwest Coastal Louisiana project.
- Advancing dredge plans consistent with water quality plans.
WRDA 2016 builds on reform efforts and requires a transparent process for congressional review of proposed Corps of Engineers water resources development activities. Following the oversight and review process created in the 2014 law, WRDA 2016 authorizes infrastructure improvements that have been proposed at the local level, reviewed by the Corps according to strict congressionally established criteria, and submitted to Congress for consideration.