Congressman Garamendi Helps Ensure Passage of Critical Water Resources Bill
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, by a bipartisan 412-4 vote, the House of Representatives voted to approve the Conference Report to H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA). The legislation merges language previously approved by the House and Senate and is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Obama.
Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), the Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, served as a WRRDA Conference Committee Member. In this capacity, he helped to negotiate the final language and to ensure it supports needed water and flood control projects in Northern California.
“This is a good day for American infrastructure and American jobs. Through WRRDA, vital water projects will finally be constructed, helping to improve water quality and protect Americans from flooding and other natural disasters,” Garamendi said. “This is the type of bill that should and did unite Congress, and I’m honored to have helped shape this bill on the Conference Committee.”
WRRDA authorizes $760 million for the American River Watershed Project in the Natomas Basin, helping prevent flooding in Sacramento and Sutter Counties. It also authorizes $255 million in flood control for the Sutter Basin. Congressman Garamendi has worked closely with his Republican colleague to the north, Congressman Doug LaMalfa to ensure federal funding for levees in this region. It is the second most flood prone region in the nation, behind only New Orleans.
“I know California is in a drought right now, but it’s a terrible mistake to be complacent about our flood risk. Flood conditions will return, and when they do, we better be ready,” Garamendi added. “WRRDA authorizes funding for needed levee projects in my district, and working with local, state, and federal officials throughout this region, I’ll continue doing all I can to improve our flood infrastructure.”
WRRDA also increases national funding for harbor maintenance incrementally so that 100% of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) is spent on our harbors by 2025. The language is structured to ensure more of this money is returned to the harbor generating the revenue. This is a huge improvement for California harbors which are traditionally net donor harbors to the HMTF.
The bill also requires the Army Corps of Engineers to return to Congress with recommendations on further invasive species management, which could substantially help Lake County and the quagga mussel infestation that threatens Clear Lake.
The bill has important provisions to help California prepare for future droughts by requiring the Corps to update operation manuals for its dams. Water supply capabilities will be improved through these updates and provide the Corps flexibility to change operations during the dry years and still provide flood protection in the wet years.
Levee vegetation is also a concern in California that has been addressed in the conference report. The bill requires the Corps to re-issue levee vegetation regulations and to take into account regional variances when evaluating when and if vegetation must be removed from a levee.
The bill includes a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program that many water agencies have asked for. This is a low interest loan program for water projects including but not limited to projects for flood damage reduction, restoration of aquatic ecosystems, improvements to inland and intracoastal waterway navigation systems, wastewater treatment works, desalination plants, and the acquisition of property for the construction of projects. The bill authorizes $20 million in 2015 increasing by $5 million each year until 2019.
Other highlights of WRRDA:
Reforms Bureaucracy, Accelerates Project Delivery, and Streamlines Environmental Reviews
- Sets hard deadlines on the time and cost of studies
- Consolidates or eliminates duplicative or unnecessary studies and requires concurrent reviews
Is Fiscally Responsible
- Deauthorizes $18 billion of old, inactive projects that were authorized prior to WRDA 2007
- More than fully offsets authorizations with deauthorizations
- Sunsets new authorizations to prevent future project backlogs
- Reduces the inventory of properties that are not needed for the missions of the Corps
Strengthens Oversight, Transparency, and Accountability
- Establishes a new, transparent process for future bills to review and prioritize water resources development activities with strong Congressional oversight
- Increases Flexibility for Non-Federal Interests and Leverages Private Sector Investments to Multiply the Effect of Federal Funding
- Maximizes the ability of non-federal interests to contribute their own funds to move studies and projects forward
- Expands the ability of non-federal interests to contribute funds to expedite the evaluation and processing of permits
- Establishes a Water Infrastructure Public Private Partnership Program and new options to expand the local role in project implementation
- Creates innovative methods to invest in and finance water resources infrastructure and municipal drinking water and wastewater
Strengthens Safety and Protects Communities
- Strengthens dam and levee safety
- Improves Army Corps of Engineers responses to extreme weather events
- Encourages resilient construction techniques and the use of durable, sustainable, and innovative materials