U.S. Senate passes America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018

Federal legislation aims to fund upgrades for waterways and reservoirs, address algal blooms.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal bill proposing to support waterway access projects and improve navigability cleared its way through the U.S. Senate, Oct. 10. Senators joined their counterparts in the House of Representatives in approving S. 3021, colloquially known as America’s Water Infrastructure Act. The vote was 99-1, opening the door for the bill to move forward to Pres. Donald J. Trump’s desk for approval or veto.

The bill, updates laws and regulations already on the books, specifically covers issues such as invasive species, harmful algal blooms, dredging, infrastructure maintenance and operation, local water management plans, coastal erosion and debris removal.

Energy, drinking water and clean water are also covered under S. 3021.

More than $6 billion of spending over the next 10 years would ultimately be authorized if S. 3021 becomes law. Some of the funding would be directed to regional water projects, such as stemming coastal erosion in Texas or improving drinking water quality in Flint, Texas. Money will also be allocated to large projects managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Organizations such as BoatUS, National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC) expressed their respective support of America’s Water Infrastructure Act.

A BoatUS statement on S. 3021 stated the legislative update would “provide critical funds and policy improvements for the nation’s waterways, reservoirs, levees, locks and dams.”

“Recreational boaters will like the bill as it supports waterway-access projects, navigation and water-quality improvements, and provides maintenance funds for harbors of refuge,” BoatUS’s statement on S. 3021 said.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act also reformed and streamlined the way the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers processes its projects.

The federal bill, of course, is not free of criticism or opposition. A report published by The Heritage Foundation – a conservative think tank – called America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 a “flood of failure.”

“The Army Corps’ infrastructure work has long been plagued by a backlog of projects that Congress has authorized, many of which are later de-authorized before completion,” The Heritage Foundation report, which was published on Oct. 9, stated.

“The bill, as it currently stands, would only add to the backlog. Congress should implement a practice of at least twice as much de-authorization than new authorization, taking into account both the number of projects and their costs. Legislators should focus on priorities,” the report continued.

Legislators still hailed America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 as a victory for their constituents.

“S. 3021 will also make it easier for projects to get through the Army Corps process and authorizes important projects to deepen ports,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said in a released statement.

Reps. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, and Fred Upton, R-Michigan, said S. 3021 would modernize the nation’s drinking water infrastructure, improve accountability and foster more transparency.

“[America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018] grows the economy, keeps communities safe, cuts red tape and is fiscally responsible,” a joint statement issued by Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, and Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, read.

Language of S. 3021 stated water infrastructure should be a leading priority for each Congress session.

“It is the sense of Congress that, because the missions of the Corps of Engineers for navigation, flood control, beach erosion control and shoreline protection, hydroelectric power, recreation, water supply, environmental protection, restoration, and enhancement, and fish and wildlife mitigation benefit all Americans, and because water resources development projects are critical to maintaining the country’s economic prosperity, national security, and environmental protection, Congress should consider a water resources development bill not less often than once every Congress,” the bill’s mission statement said.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 would become law with Trump’s signature. A veto would mean it goes back to Congress.

Photo: Army Corps of Engineering

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