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May 6, 2020 3:45 PM, EDT

Senate Committee Approves Water Infrastructure Measures

Ship at Port of BaltimoreA ship unloading at the Port of Baltimore. America’s Water Infrastructure Act would authorize $17 billion to assist with the deepening of ports. (Maryland Port Administration)

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A bill that would authorize projects at ports and another one that would promote access to safe drinking water were easily approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on May 6.

Each measure advanced to the floor by votes of 21-0. Republican leaders charged with managing the floor have yet to schedule consideration for the bills.

One of the bills, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act, would authorize $17 billion to assist with the deepening of ports, and address concerns related to inland waterways and floodwaters.

The bill would authorize studies and certain Army Corps of Engineers reports. It also would adjust the cost-share for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund for construction costs. Its aim is to facilitate the navigability of waterways.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)

Barrasso

The Drinking Water Infrastructure Act is meant to enhance resources and assistance for communities. Under the bill, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would establish a pilot program to assist eligible entities with lead reduction programs. Also, the administrator would be required to prepare a study that examines the treatment, monitoring, affordability, efficiency or safety of the drinking water in the public water system. The measure would authorize more than $1 billion.

“Our committee has taken a significant step to improve our dams, ports, flood-prevention infrastructure, reservoirs and drinking water systems,” committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said. “America’s Water Infrastructure Act and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act will create jobs and grow our economy. The legislation will help ensure American-made goods are safely shipped from one state to another and that the water Americans are drinking is safe. These bills, along with our bipartisan highway infrastructure legislation, should be considered by the full Senate, after the immediate health crisis is behind us.

Tom Carper (D-Del.)

Carper

“Our country’s drinking water and wastewater systems, shipping channels and flood-control structures are essential to our economy and way of life, but they are also in desperate need of improvements and investments,” added Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the panel’s ranking member. “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 will make badly needed improvements and investments in water infrastructure systems throughout the country.”

The legislation’s sponsors had garnered support from stakeholders when their bills were unveiled last month. Tony Pratt, president of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association said in a statement April 29, “We applaud the EPW for its accomplishment of maintaining the biennial schedule for a Water Resources Development Act and for the vision and foresight contained in the bill.”

“On behalf of our hundreds of municipal agencies, businesses and institutional members, we thank you for your commitment to developing strong, bipartisan water infrastructure legislation in 2020,” noted Patricia Sinicropi, executive director of WateReuse, a group dedicated to advancing policy and funding, as well as growing the acceptance of recycled water.

On the House side, a five-year, $760 billion infrastructure policy outline drafted by Democrats proposes to advance affordable water programs and wastewater services. The proposal calls for authorizing nearly $20 billion for dredging and upkeep of ports, harbors and channels. It also would establish a program at EPA tasked with detecting, preventing and treating discharge of harmful chemicals.

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