In the News

Senate panel advance water resources legislation

May 4, 2022   Congressional Quarterly

View Source

Senate panel advance water resources legislation

May 4, 2022 – 12:31 p.m. By Benjamin J. Hulac, CQ


The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously voted to advance legislation to authorize flood, navigation and ecosystem programs and studies for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Water Resources Development Act, introduced Friday, authorizes 36 new Corps feasibility studies and either authorizes or modifies 21 Corps projects for construction. (It does not yet have a bill number; its bill page can be found here.)

Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., said the bill was drafted with input from all 100 senators.

“It’s not done, but we’re well on our way,” Carper said of the legislation. Said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the ranking member, “True to the Corps’ tradition, this bill moves forward projects that will benefit both local communities and the entire country.”

The committee also voted Wednesday morning to advance six resolutions about the General Services Administration and the nomination of Benny Wagner to be inspector general for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

A bill Congress generally considers every two years, the water policy legislation casts a wide net by approving dozens of local construction or flood-control projects across the country and setting national goals, such as a provision for the Corps to conduct a national inventory of “low-head” dams, which span riverbanks and carry water over their tops.

The legislation includes tweaks to federal law and local projects, such as a clarifying sentence about Everglades restoration in Florida, a requirement the Corps seek tribal advice for the Dalles Dam in the Pacific Northwest and a funding clarification about a flood-protection project running from the Rio Grande to Belen, New Mexico.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said negotiations over the bill's language led to a separate agreement calling for the Government Accountability Office, the investigative wing of Congress, to study the difference between Corps funding for inland flooding projects and coastal flooding projects.

There is not enough Corps funding focused on coastal flooding, he said. The difference “runs between 20 to 1 and 100 to 1 year to year” he said, with more money going to inland flooding projects.

“I think it’s high time we got rid of it,” Whitehouse said of the discrepancy. “Getting a good explanation of it is a good start.”

Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., filed two amendments to the bill, one of which covers dam modernization projects, which fall under the jurisdiction of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The last WRDA bill became law (PL 116-260) as part of an omnibus spending bill on Dec. 27, 2020.