Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Water Resources Bill
On September 15, the Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA), S 2848, by a vote of 95-3. The bill that passed the Senate is not the original bill that passed from the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) earlier this year, but is instead a bipartisan substitute which was changed by a recently released re-negotiated manager’s amendment. The WRDA bill addresses the needs of America’s harbors, locks, dams, flood protection and other water resources infrastructure and also helps strengthen the nation’s economic competitiveness. It authorizes $10.6 billion in funding for 30 Army Corps of Engineers water infrastructure projects in 17 states such as drinking water infrastructure programs as well as waterways and flood control systems.
The House has passed their version (HR 5303) out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) and is working to take it to the floor for full House consideration sometime before Congress adjourns for the October recess. Currently, the biggest differences between the two bills is the $220 million allocated to address the ongoing crisis of lead poising in Flint, MI, and several environmental riders, including one targeted at preventing EPA from regulating coal ash disposal. House T&I Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) said that the Flint aid provision is not within his committee’s jurisdiction and has not yet indicated what legislative action he will take to address the differences between the two bills.
NRMCA successfully secured language in the Senate version in Section 1046 for a study on the performance of innovative materials. In this section, innovative materials includes high-performance concrete formulations as well as other materials and emphasizes the need for identifying conditions that result in degradation of water infrastructure projects and the ability of these materials to reduce degradation. The study further asks for identifying conditions and making recommendations on performance-based requirements of these materials. The study will be conducted by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences and examine the use and performance of innovative materials in water resources development projects. The study must be completed within three years after the passage of the bill.