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Courtney Helps Pass Water Resources Redevelopment Act to Invest in American Maritime Infrastructure

July 29, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) and the House of Representatives voted to pass the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 (H.R. 7575). The 2020 WRDA would authorize the study and construction of locally driven projects across the U.S. in cooperation and consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. These projects are essential to everything from preserving and growing our nation’s economy, to protecting our communities, to maintaining quality of life. H.R. 7575 was authorized for a final vote in the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and passed the House today by unanimous consent under voice vote.

“The 2020 Water Resources Redevelopment Act came together in bipartisan fashion, and it recognizes the important role that our nation’s small ports, harbors, and inland waterways play in our economic wellbeing and way of life,” said Congressman Courtney. “Our economy, our national security, and our environment will benefit from the enactment of this legislation, and so will our rural communities. I was glad to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle today in supporting passage of this bill.”

The WRDA is legislation that is essential to everyday American life. Nearly 80 percent of traded goods that Americans rely on are moved through our nation’s inland waterways, ports, and harbors. Projects such as flood damage reduction and ecosystem restoration help protect both rural and urban communities, and are vital to restoring and maintaining natural resources. This work, carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is made possible through the enactment of WRDA.

The Water Resources Redevelopment Act of 2020:

Strengthens America’s Competitive Edge by Investing in Our Ports, Harbors, and Inland Waterways

  • Includes a provision to deauthorize a limited portion of the New London federal channel to support the harbor development plan for State Pier approved by the State of Connecticut in February. The provision reflects the updated design of the project, which was adjusted over the last year to address concerns of nearby users of the channel. A similar provision was included in the Senate version of the bill, which was approved in committee in June.
  • Includes a provision to deauthorize a limited portion of the Pawcatuck River, Little Narragansett Bay, and Watch Hill Cove, Rhode Island and Connecticut for navigation and infrastructure improvement purposes. A similar provision was included in the Senate version of the bill, approved in committee in June.
  • Fully unlocks the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) by providing the Authority to appropriate additional funds for harbor maintenance needs from the existing balance in the Trust Fund. The current estimate of the balance in the trust fund is approximately $10 billion.
  • Establishes a new framework for annual allocation of operation and maintenance expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), which would give eastern Connecticut a fairer share of these funds. The new formula would require the Secretary to elevate from 10% to 20% the amount of HMTF funding set aside for smaller ports.
  • Invests additional Federal resources for the construction of inland waterways projects and prioritizes the construction of projects identified by inland users, including the Upper Ohio River navigation system and the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) for the Upper Mississippi River.

Improves U.S. Water Resources Infrastructure

  • Authorizes the construction of all 34 pending Corps Chief’s Reports received since the enactment of WRDA 2018. Chief’s Reports are the final recommendations to Congress by the Chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on rigorously-studied water resources infrastructure priorities.
  • Authorizes 35 feasibility studies for water resources development projects, including those identified through the public review process established by section 7001 of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. 
  • Directs the Corps to complete five comprehensive river basin studies for the Great Lakes, the Upper Mississippi River, the Lower Mississippi River, the Lower Missouri River Basin, and the Sacramento River.
  • Directs the Corps to expedite the completion of 41 feasibility studies currently underway.

Builds More Resilient Communities

  • Allows for the calculation of sea level rise benefits for Corps projects, and requires the Secretary to consider, when requested, whether the need for the project is predicated upon or exacerbated by conditions related to sea level rise.
  • Authorizes the Corps to study, design and construct water resources projects for communities that have been subjected to repetitive flooding events and have received emergency flood assistance, including construction of temporary barriers. This authority is directed at helping repetitive loss communities, especially those in economically-disadvantaged communities, obtain critical flood protection.
  • Renews Congressional support for water resources projects that promote the beneficial reuse of sediment by establishing a national policy that recognizes the economic and environmental value in reusing clean dredged materials for ecosystem restoration or storm damage reduction projects.
  • Requires the Corps to undertake an inventory of water resources development projects and associated properties that are or may be contaminated with PFAS, and to develop a plan to remediate and limit potential human exposure to the contamination.
  • Reaffirms the commitment to greater use of natural and nature-based projects by ensuring natural alternatives are fully evaluated by the Corps and are provided the same cost-share as structural alternatives. WRDA 2020 also clarifies that natural and naturebased projects are eligible under the Corps’ continuing authorities programs. 

Addresses Affordability for Economically Disadvantaged Communities

  • Creates additional flexibility for the Corps to address the water resources needs of economically disadvantaged communities, communities of color, and rural communities.
  • Provides the Corps with the authority to provide technical assistance for resiliency planning, with priority given to economically disadvantaged communities.
  • Authorizes the Corps to affordably study the flooding and storm damage reduction needs of economically disadvantaged communities, including communities of color, and tribal and rural communities. 

For more information on the 2020 WRDA, click here.

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