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Inhofe sets sights on passing WRDA this summer

Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter
Published: Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said yesterday that he expects Congress to pass the 2016 Water Resources Development Act by mid-July.

The massive water resources and infrastructure bill is a priority for Inhofe and EPW Committee ranking member Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), both of whom will step down from their committee leadership positions at the end of the year.

“My timing for WRDA is going to be for the work period between June and July 15, and that’s when I’d like to see it completed,” Inhofe told E&E Daily.

The bill, S. 2848, would authorize about $9 billion in Army Corps of Engineers projects for navigation, flood control and environmental restoration.

It also includes provisions to help Flint, Mich. — where tap water has been contaminated by high lead levels — and other communities upgrade and repair their sewage treatment and drinking water systems. In addition, the measure would put aside aid for water supply projects in drought-stricken areas. The EPW Committee voted 19-1 to move the bill last month (Greenwire, April 28).

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has yet to unveil its version of WRDA, which Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has described as a “pamphlet” bill light on policy initiatives.

Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), chairman of the Transportation

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For more details on S. 2848, you can find the text here.  Among the many civil works projects spearheaded by the Corps of Engineers, the bill includes a broad array of good ideas and policy changes for water resource management and the water sector, including:

  • Provisions to stand-up the WIFIA program
  • Water Trust Fund (long advocated by NACWA) that would be funded through a “private labeling” program
  • Innovation grant program authorized up to $50M each year/$5M max. per project
  • More funding for water research and “new utility” ideas, including nonstructural alternatives, decentralized approaches, water efficiency and conservation, energy/water efficiency
  • Water desal/chloride control
  • Drought assistance
  • Lead pipe removal assistance up to $70M (Flint provision)
  • Report on barriers to water innovation in drinking water and state water pollution control
  • Water pricing study by EPA