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Washington, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018 (H.R. 8), bipartisan legislation that provides for improvements to the nation’s ports, inland waterways, locks, dams, flood protection, ecosystem restoration, and other water resources infrastructure. The bill passed by a vote of 408 to 2.

The legislation authorizes proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works activities and provides reforms to the Corps.  The bill was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves (R-LA), and Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Grace Napolitano (D-CA).

According to Shuster, WRDA 2018:

  • Authorizes locally driven, but nationally vital, investments in water resources infrastructure.
  • Strengthens economic growth and competitiveness, helps move goods throughout the country and abroad, and protects communities.
  • Follows the transparent process Congress established under the 2014 reforms for considering proposed Army Corps of Engineers activities.
  • Builds upon previous reforms of the Corps to further accelerate the process for moving projects forward more efficiently and at lower cost.
  • Upholds Congress’ constitutional duty to provide for infrastructure and facilitate commerce for the Nation.

The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) issued a statement highlighting several sections in H.R. 8:

Section 108, “Emergency Response To Natural Disasters” — Fixes a problem that stemmed from language in WRRDA 2014.  This allows for Flood Control and Coastal Emergency (FCCE) funding to be used to restore coastal risk management project, including beaches, “to either the pre-storm level or the design level of protection, whichever provides greater protection.” A small, but critical fix for communities who had been properly maintaining their federally authorized beach only to see FCCE funds used to rebuild their beach after a storm to a width less than it was before the storm.

Section 118, “Study Of The Future Of The United States Army Corps Of Engineers” — The inclusion of a National Academies Study to look at, “(1) the ability of the Corps of Engineers to carry out its statutory missions and responsibilities, and the potential effects of transferring the functions (including regulatory obligations), personnel, assets, and civilian staff responsibilities of the Secretary relating to civil works from the Department of Defense to a new or existing agency or sub-agency of the Federal Government, including how such a transfer might affect the Federal Government’s ability to meet the current statutory missions and responsibilities of the Corps of Engineers; and (2) improving the Corps of Engineers’ project delivery processes, including recommendations for such improvements, taking into account factors including….” This is vital to assure that the nation continues to receive the best possible water resources services and the best available science and technology support. Critical to this investigation is an examination of the current benefit/cost analysis that the Corps uses and whether it accurately informs the full national benefits that stem from water resources infrastructure investments.

The Senate still needs to vote on a companion bill, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.

More information about the WRDA is available at https://transportation.house.gov/wrda-2018.

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