October 03, 2016

House Passes Water Infrastructure Bill, Setting up Conference with Senate

On Wednesday, September 28, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5303, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016. House action comes on the heels of the Senate’s passage of its version (S. 2848) earlier this month. Lawmakers will now work to resolve the differences between the two bills in hopes of sending the legislation to President Obama after the elections.

Prior to House passage, an amendment was adopted that added $170 million to address the water contamination issues in Flint, Michigan. The Senate bill provides $270 million for programs focused on drinking water projects, which includes funding for Flint’s water issues. The addition of the House provision ensures that the final conference will address this issue, which had been a key sticking point prior to the bill’s consideration.

Elsewhere, the Senate includes grant funding to develop innovative water technologies and bolster the workforce in the water sector. The Senate version also includes grant programs to address:

  • Sewer overflow control
  • Rehabilitation of high hazard potential dams
  • Fire risk reduction and forest management
  • Stewardship of the Long Island Sound
  • Delaware and Columbia River Basin restoration

The Senate bill also authorizes 29 infrastructure projects and extends (through 2025) the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund’s authority to set-aside 10 percent of funding for emerging harbors and to provide additional funding for “donor ports.”

For its part, the House bill is more conservative in scope. It does not include any of the grant provisions in the Senate legislation. H.R. 5303 authorizes 28 infrastructure projects, accounting for approximately $5 billion in spending. The bill simultaneous de-authorizes $5 billion in previously approved projects and includes sunsets on all new authorizations to avoid future backlogs. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee approved the bill unanimously in May of this year.

WRDA reauthorizations have historically occurred every two years, and Congress last passed one in 2014. Prior to that, however, it had not passed WRDA legislation since 2007.

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