Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today cheered final passage of the conference report on H.R. 1495, the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. The bill, which passed the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan margin of 81 to 12, will authorize America’s essential flood control, navigation, and ecosystem restoration projects in a way that is fiscally responsible and technically sound. The bill authorizes nearly $7 billion for wetlands restoration and flood control projects to put Louisiana on the path to Category V storm protection, and authorizes dozens of other critical water projects nationwide.
“Senator Inhofe and I share a commitment to shoring up our nation’s infrastructure. We have a true partnership on this issue and we stood shoulder to shoulder to get this bill done. Together, we have been able to accomplish in nine months what had gone unfinished for seven years. This is a truly bipartisan bill that meets our communities’ and our nation’s water infrastructure needs and it does it in a fiscally responsible way. Some of the communities this bill will protect have waited years for these projects – and many of them are vital to protecting lives and communities from floods and storms.”
“This bill makes a substantial commitment to protecting our nation’s wetlands, navigation routes, and recreation opportunities. It is crucial to our country’s economy.
“This bill also includes important steps forward in reforming the way the Army Corps of Engineers does its work, by making sure future projects receive the serious analysis and careful implementation they deserve.”
“The Water Resources Development Act and the projects, policies, and programs it authorizes are essential components of keeping our economy growing. From trade to transportation, disaster prevention to rural recreation, this bill helps America compete in the world and stay strong and safe at home.”
The bill now goes to President Bush, who has threatened to veto it.
“If the President chooses to veto the bill, as he has threatened to do, we are committed – on a bipartisan basis – to move to override his veto. Communities across the country have waited long enough for the vital projects in this bill. I hope the president will not force them to wait even one day longer.”
The WRDA bill that passed the Senate today will:
• Put Louisiana’s coast on the path to recovery, by authorizing approximately $7 billion for projects to restore Louisiana’s wetlands, including projects that are ready to begin by 2010, and by authorizing the Army Corps of Engineers to construct structural measures to restore 100-year-level protection for New Orleans and vicinity and move toward Category 5 protection. It specifically includes the closure and rehabilitation of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. It also requires the Corps to complete its studies and requires swift action on storm protection measures.
• Allow the Corps of Engineers to complete necessary modifications at the existing Folsom Dam to protect the 300,000 residents of Sacramento, CA, and the California Capitol. The bill also improves flood protection for dozens of other communities across the country
• Enact the most sweeping reforms of the Army Corps of Engineers since the landmark 1986 Act imposed cost-sharing. The bill establishes requirements to conduct independent reviews of Army Corps projects and eases the process for de-authorizing unbuilt projects that are obsolete or no longer needed. The bill also increases Federal participation in watershed-based planning to take into account the interconnectedness of projects – addressing a major short-coming of the failure of the hurricane protection in New Orleans.
• Authorize the first of the major restoration projects for the Everglades, and provides the direction necessary to finally begin the redistribution of water to the Everglades; nearly 18 years after Congress directed it.
• Create a National Levee Safety Program, improve flood protection for Sacramento, California, and modernize locks and dams on the upper Mississippi River.