WRDA 2018 Advances to US Senate
Washington, DC – Water Resource Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) bolstered tonight’s House passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018, comprehensive legislation that authorizes the nation’s water resources infrastructure projects and programs. WRDA 2018 builds on efforts focused on making the Army Corps of Engineers work for the American people so our communities are more resilient against hurricanes, storms and floods while ensuring the long-term viability of our nation’s water infrastructure. The bill includes numerous Graves-authored policies that positively affect Louisiana’s flood defense, rivers and ports, coastal restoration, hurricane protection, environmental and other water resources-related priorities. The bill now awaits action in the US Senate.
“If we continue doing things the same way we’ve always done them, the flood, hurricane and coastal protection improvements our country so desperately needs will never come to fruition,” said Graves. “Right now, the Army Corps of Engineers has a $100 billion backlog of projects. If all we do is continue to incrementally invest two billion dollars on construction annually, we will finish these projects approximately never. We have to fix what’s broken about the process – and this bill moves us in that direction.”
Graves successfully earned bipartisan support for additional provisions and policy revisions following the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s approval of the bill in late May, and the final WRDA product that passed tonight makes substantial headway toward transforming the effectiveness, speed and efficiency of completing water infrastructure investments in America. Some of the accomplishments of Graves’ provisions include:
- Begins the process of moving the Corps of Engineers out of the Department of Defense and into a more compatible federal agency. This will help to make the Corp’s mission an agency priority and break the bureaucratic log jam that has plagued projects for decades.
- Establishes a new dredging pilot program that mirrors how the private sector handles ongoing operations and maintenance needs. Under the pilot, the Corps can execute contracts for up to five years for dredging maintenance of our waterways, which will mean better reliability in river conditions for commercial and recreational users of our ports and waterways. The current contracting process is inefficient, results in repeatedly paying for mobilization and demobilization of dredges and leads to restrictions on our waterways.
- Directs the Corps to develop a new operations plan for the Old River control structure. The current strict requirement that 70 percent of the flow go down the Mississippi River while 30 percent go down the Atchafalaya River is antiquated and misses opportunities to advance flood protection, coastal restoration, our ports, fisheries and crawfish production, hydroelectric production and other benefits. Current law has the Corps operating such structures based on 70-year-old conditions.
- Allows for state and local governments to build Corps projects following the using the federal government’s permitting and environmental streamlining processes. This will save millions of dollars and years of delays.
- Preventing the Corps from forcing expensive land acquisitions for water resource related projects and actions when temporary easements or donations of property are available. This helps to reduce the cost of projects and improves project cooperation.
WRDA lays the foundation for the president’s broader infrastructure package as it focuses on our ports, inland waterways, locks, dams, flood protection and other water infrastructure that underpin the nation’s ability to generate economic growth, move goods throughout the country and beyond our borders, and better protect our communities and environment.