Major Bipartisan Water Resources Bill Includes Flood Protection, Ecosystem Restoration, and Port Investment for California
May 14, 2014
Washington, D.C. -- Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and Chair of the joint House-Senate Conference Committee, today released a summary of the benefits for California in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) conference report. The final agreement provides critical flood protection, restores important ecosystems, and maintains ports and navigation routes for commerce and the movement of goods throughout the State of California. The conference report is expected to be released later this week and voted on next week in both the House of Representatives and Senate.
Senator Boxer said: "In my home State of California, Sacramento faces some of the nation's most severe flood risks. I am so pleased that this bipartisan legislation includes critical flood control that protects lives and property in California. It also includes important reforms to strengthen our ports, including in Los Angeles and Long Beach, and restores critical ecosystems, such as the Salton Sea. I look forward to moving this critical legislation to the President's desk to be signed into law as soon as possible."
The WRRDA conference report authorizes four new projects in California that have undergone extensive review by the Corps of Engineers and have been recommended by the Chief of Engineers, making them eligible for federal construction funding.
• Natomas Basin: WRRDA authorizes over $1 billion to strengthen the levees in the Natomas Basin in Sacramento to safeguard over 100,000 residents and protect over $7 billion in property.
• San Clemente Shoreline: The conference report authorizes $99 million for construction and continuing maintenance of coastal protection measures along the San Clemente shoreline. The project will protect critical infrastructure, including an important passenger and freight rail link, and increase recreational opportunities.
• Orestimba Creek, San Joaquin River Basin: WRRDA authorizes approximately $45 million for flood control measures in the San Joaquin River Basin to protect the City of Newman. The project includes over four miles of levees designed to withstand a 200-year flood. It will protect critical local infrastructure, including rail, water supply, roads, and emergency response facilities. It would reduce expected annual damages by 94 percent.
• Sutter Basin: WRRDA authorizes approximately $689 million for a flood control measures in Sutter River Basin, including Yuba City. The project would strengthen 41 miles of existing levees, reducing expected annual damages by approximately $50 million.
The WRRDA conference report also authorizes programs and sets priorities that address California's needs.
• Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund: Ports and waterways in the United States moved over 2.3 billion tons of goods in 2012, and California has some of the busiest ports in the world. These ports and waterways require dredging, maintenance and modernization to ensure the efficient, safe and timely movement of goods.
The conference report calls for increased expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to support increased maintenance of the nation's ports, including many ports in California. The legislation also includes reforms to the HMTF that will ensure equity for ports that contribute the most to the Fund but receive little funding in return, such as the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. For the first time, these critical ports will be able to use funding for additional projects such as berth dredging and contaminated sediment disposal. The conference report also includes guaranteed funding for smaller, emerging ports that often do not receive adequate maintenance dredging.
• WIFIA: The conference report establishes a five-year pilot program, known as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), to allow the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to provide loans and loan guarantees for flood control, water supply, and wastewater infrastructure projects. This program, which is based on the successful TIFIA program for transportation projects, will provide critical financing for water infrastructure projects identified by local communities. These include projects to help with California's ongoing drought, including desalination, water recycling, and repair of aging water supply infrastructure.
• Extreme Weather: WRRDA requires the National Academy of Sciences to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of how to improve water infrastructure to better respond to extreme weather and to mitigate risk associated with these disasters. The provision also calls on the Corps of Engineers to use resilient construction techniques when building new water infrastructure.
• Prioritization of Ecosystem Restoration: The conference report prioritizes ecosystem restoration projects that address identified threats to public health and preserve or restore ecosystems of national significance. The provision will provide those threatened ecosystems around the nation with additional focused attention, including places like the Salton Sea.
• Levee Safety: WRRDA enhances the safety of our nation's levees, establishing a National Levee Safety Initiative that promotes consistent safety standards and effectively communicates to the public the risks of living behind a levee. This new initiative will provide support to state levee safety programs, including efforts to enhance levee safety in California.
• Levee Vegetation: The conference report requires the Corps of Engineers to update its guidelines for the removal of vegetation on Corps levees after seeking public input. This will ensure that the Corps of Engineers' policy is focused on the highest priority safety concerns for California communities.
• Crediting: WRRDA allows local communities to carry out work in advance of the Corps of Engineers and receive credit for work performed. This is important to many California communities that have state or local funding sources that are ready to be invested immediately.