Congress Eyes Final Water Infrastructure Bill

Flooding along the banks of the Ouachita River in Monroe, La.
Flooding along the banks of the Ouchita River in Monroe, La. Louisiana will receive more than $1 billion for flood mitigation projects under WRDA. (Denis Tangeny Jr./Getty Images)

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Legislation that would approve funding for water infrastructure projects around the country has been finalized, congressional transportation leaders announced this month.

Congress appears ready to clear for President Joe Biden the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 during this post-election lame duck session. The bill is included in comprehensive defense policy legislation.

WRDA, sponsored by the leaders of the transportation panels, would authorize Army Corps of Engineers projects ranging from flood mitigation and supply chain connectivity to environmental restoration and big-ticket rebuilding efforts. Additionally, under the bill the Government Accountability Office would be tasked with reviewing delays associated with major projects. Its sponsors praised agreement on a final legislative package.

“The Water Resources Development Act of 2022 represents what’s possible when we work together to craft legislation that meaningfully invests in our nation’s water resources,” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said Dec. 6.

“This legislation further enables the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address local and regional concerns while continuing to advance national priorities,” said EPW ranking member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). “For West Virginia, it means projects across our state will receive the resources and support needed to make progress on critical issues, such as addressing flood risk. WRDA 2022 is another example of common-sense, bipartisan collaboration on the EPW committee and with our counterparts in the House to improve the nation’s infrastructure.”

The House advanced the legislation Dec. 8. The Senate is likely to consider the bill during the week of Dec. 12. The House counterparts of the EPW panel’s leadership echoed their viewpoint.

“WRDA 2022 will help local communities struggling to afford critical water resources projects, while bringing state, local, and Tribal leaders to the table to execute projects equitably,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).

“Flood protection in particular is critical to my district in Missouri and many other regions, and when rivers like the Missouri and the Mississippi aren’t properly managed, it damages navigation channels for commerce and threatens people and property along the rivers,” added Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the panel’s ranking member. “It’s critical to make sure the Corps of Engineers doesn’t lose focus of its navigation and flood control responsibilities, and this bipartisan bill does just that.”

Overall, the bill would approve funding for more than two dozen projects of regional significance, such as more than $1 billion for flood mitigation programs in Louisiana. “This bill will improve our flood protection, restore our coast and bolster our ports,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), ranking member of the Aviation Subcommittee, said prior to House approval of the bill.

Prominent stakeholders touted Congress’ action.

“With so much on Congress’s to-do list before the end of the year, dedicating time to pass these bills is a testament to the power of nature in the fight against climate change and its potential to create a more resilient future for the country,” Kameran Onley, director of North American policy and government relations at The Nature Conservancy, said Dec. 8. “The Water Resources Development Act of 2022 will build on its predecessors’ progress in driving nature-based solutions to address our water infrastructure needs, enabling investments that will strengthen communities, create jobs, and support healthy, sustainable waterways.”

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