"Our infrastructure drives the health, well-being, economy, and prosperity of the nation. We depend upon it to move people and goods, to get to our jobs, to protect our homes from floods and disasters, and to provide our families with clean water. For too long, we have not prioritized the needs of these infrastructure systems. Funding has not kept pace with our infrastructure needs, and burdensome federal regulations have slowed efforts to spend the money efficiently. The time has come to make a significant investment in our roads, bridges, ports, and water systems." -- Chairman John Barrasso
America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018
S. 2800, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, supports our nation’s economic competitiveness by increasing water storage, providing protection from dangerous floodwaters, increasing local stakeholder input, deepening nationally significant ports, and maintaining the navigability of inland waterways across the country. The legislation also cuts red tape, is fiscally responsible, and increases state and local stakeholder input for water infrastructure projects.
Creates Jobs and Grows the Economy
- Authorizes or reauthorizes important water infrastructure programs and projects
- Maintains navigation routes for commerce and the movement of goods to keep America competitive in the global marketplace
- Deepens important coastal and inland ports
- Increases water storage and supply for rural America
- Repairs aging irrigation systems to grow agricultural based economies
- Invests in the maintenance and construction of water and wastewater infrastructure
- Invests in the development of a strong water utility workforce
Cuts Red Tape
- Sets a goal that the Corps complete feasibility studies for new projects in 2 years
- Eliminates the need for multiple benefit-cost-ratio assessments from the Corps for a single project
- Mandates the Corps expeditiously shares project data with non-federal partners once they take over a project, and helps the non-federal partners to obtain needed permits
- Requires the Corps to review the need for new categorical exclusions, and as necessary create them, so projects can be completed faster
- Includes $7.5 billion in new deauthorizations – saving taxpayers’ dollars
- Requires the Corps to responsibly manage non-Federal dollars by either applying excess funds to another project by the same sponsor or refunding the money
- Holds the Army Corps financially accountable for any failures to complete studies and reports called for in the legislation in a timely manner
- Reauthorizes the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act (WIFIA) and includes a modified version of the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now Act (SRF WIN Act) to promote leveraging millions in non-federal funds for water projects
- Ensures local communities have more control over which projects receive funding
- Empowers states to challenge Corps decisions on the purpose of a water storage project, or its permit conditions to enable projects to go forward
- Increases transparency by allowing local stakeholders to participate in all consultation meetings
Protects Lives and Property
- Reduces flooding risks through the construction and maintenance of dams and levees
- Invests in repairing aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure
- Gives small and rural communities the assistance they need to clean up and prevent pollution in their drinking water and wastewater systems
- Assists in creating new standards to make water utilities and water storage more affordable for small and rural communities
- Provides technical assistance to states to help complying with expensive and burdensome EPA regulatory standards that states cannot afford
Details on Key Provisions in America’s Water Infrastructure Act:
- The legislation would cut bureaucratic red tape to ensure local communities have more control over which projects receive funding.
- The bill requires the identification of $7.5 billion worth of previously authorized feasibility studies for deauthorization due to their now lack of viability.
- The bill allows for sediment management plans for Army Corps and Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs to restore the active water storage capacity of these reservoirs. Many of these reservoirs have lost a significant amount of water storage capacity due to sediment build up.
- The bill increases transparency during the permitting process for new water storage projects done by a state or local government. This provision will allow the Army Crops to more clearly and quickly assess and communicate the purpose and need, and draft permit conditions, on proposed new or modified water storage projects. The bill also allows for district level determinations by the Army Corps on purpose and need, and permit conditions, to be challenged and reviewed by a new board of appeals at the request of the applicant, prior to a final federal permit decision.
- The legislation increases overall authorizations for certain Continuing Authorities Programs (CAP), as well as their corresponding “per project” authorizations. This will increase the amount of authorized water resource projects in this country, which are integral to our infrastructure, such as flood damage reduction projects.
- The legislation authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide grants to small and medium water systems (systems that serve a population size of up to 75,000 people) for training and technical assistance in achieving Clean Water Act compliance and assist in obtaining financing for eligible clean water projects.
- Reauthorizes WIFIA and the SRF WIN Act which authorizes millions of dollars to accelerate investments in our nation’s water infrastructure, leveraging to billions of dollars in investment.
- The legislation extends until 2028 the program to address the deferred maintenance needs of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) dams. These dams protect communities across the West from dangerous floods.
- The bill establishes a ten-year pilot program to expedite the review of applications for permits to expand small city (80,000 people or less) reservoirs to increase water storage and supply if the city water supplies have been polluted from legacy Department of Defense (DOD) activities where mitigation is occurring.
- The legislation will improve transparency at the Army Corps. Several provisions in the legislation would require the Army Corps to increase transparency and accountability such as issuing outstanding guidance, distributing repayments, identifying impediments of their programs and reporting their internal decision making processes.
- Provisions of the legislation expedite the construction of Army Corps projects by:
- allowing the Army Corps to accept advanced funds from non-federal sponsors to carry out any water resource projects or from changing the non-federal cost-shares retroactively;
- requiring the Army Corps to conduct a study to identify the measures necessary to expedite water resource projects; and
- Reauthorizing a pilot program that evaluates the cost-effectiveness and project delivery efficiency of non-federal interests carrying out feasibility studies and the construction of projects.
- This legislation extends the Indian Irrigation Fund through fiscal year 2028. This fund was created in the WIIN Act and is used for maintenance, repair, and replacement activities of Indian irrigation projects.
On May 22, 2018, the EPW Committee moved forward America’s Water Infrastructure Act at a Business Meeting.
Read the text of S. 2800, America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, as passed by committee here.
Additional Infrastructure Legislation
The Brownfields program, which is administered by the EPA and has strong bipartisan support, provides grants and technical assistance to states, local governments, tribes and redevelopment agencies to support the assessment, cleanup and reuse of Brownfield sites. Reauthorizing the program was a key element of President Trump's infrastructure plan.
On March 22, 2018, Congress passed legislation to reauthorize and enhance the Brownfield’s program. The legislation provides liability relief for state and local governments that acquire these contaminated properties for cleanup and re-use. It also provides liability relief for Alaska Native villages or Alaska Native Corporations that received contaminated land from the federal government under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).
The legislation also provides funding for technical assistance grants to small communities and rural areas, expands the scope of eligible grant recipients to include non-profit organizations, and authorizes funding for multi-purpose grants to tackle more complex sites.
The bill was signed into law by President Trump.
On July 12, 2017, the committee passed S. 822, the BUILD Act, with Chairman Barrasso’s substitute amendment. The chairman’s amendment included additional liability protection for state and local units of governments as well as Alaska Native Villages and Village Corporations.
Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act
America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 would reauthorize the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act (WIFIA). WIFIA will promote leveraging millions in non-federal funds for water projects.
On October 5, 2017 the Senate passed WIFIA.
On April 5, 2017, the EPW Committee moved forward WIFIA at a Business Meeting.
On March 28, 2017, the EPW Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife held a hearing entitled, “Legislative Hearing on S. 518, a bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to provide for technical assistance for small treatment works, S. 692, the “Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act of 2017” and S. 675, the “Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act.”
Read the text of the legislation here.
Carbon Capture Infrastructure
The bipartisan Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies (USE IT) Act would clarify that carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) projects and CO2 pipelines are eligible for the permitting review process established by the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. This will help incentivize the development of carbon capture infrastructure projects.
Learn more about the USE IT Act here.
On April 11, 2018, the EPW Committee held a legislative hearing on the USE IT Act.
On March 22, 2018, a bipartisan group of Senators joined with sponsors Chairman John Barrasso and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to introduce the USE IT Act.
Read the text of the USE IT Act here.
Infrastructure Relief for Tribal Communities
On March 22, 2018, Congress authorized spending levels for the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. This authorizes over $24 million for the Irrigation Rehabilitation and Renovation for Indian Tribal Governments and Their Economies Act (IRRIGATE) Act and over $38 million for the Dam Repairs and Improvements for Tribes (DRIFT) Act.
The IRRIGATE Act will help address the deferred maintenance needs of tribal irrigation construction projects to ensure that:
- Risks to public or employee safety or to natural or cultural resources are mitigated
- Management and efficiency of the tribal irrigation programs are not stifled
The DRIFT Act will address the needs of aging dams that create flood risks by:
- Directing the Bureau of Indian Affairs to establish a dam safety program
- Directing the Bureau of Indian Affairs to establish a program that provides guidance to tribes on best practices for the mitigation and prevention of floods
- Permitting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide assistance to tribal water infrastructure projects
The bills were signed into law by President Trump.
Hearing Legislative Hearing on S. 518, a bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to provide for technical assistance for small treatment works, S. 692, the “Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act of 2017” and S. 675, the “Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act"