WASHINGTON, D.C. – Late last night, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), announced that a deal had been reached on the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (AWIA) -- a major bipartisan, bicameral water infrastructure bill that Senator Carper co-authored. The legislation makes key investments in clean drinking water systems, waterways, ports, and beaches, such as the expansion of the Port of Wilmington, and invests in vital improvements to water infrastructure to prepare Delaware -- the lowest lying state -- for the growing risks of climate change. The bill addresses the needs of stakeholders in Delaware and around the country, including farmland irrigation, flood control, ship navigability, beach and shoreline maintenance, and clean drinking water. It also includes key provisions to address the way the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) prioritizes and funds infrastructure projects.
“This water infrastructure bill shows how we can improve our communities, bolster our economy and help keep American families safe,” said Senator Carper. “Along with smart investments in water infrastructure across the country, this bill includes many top priorities for Delaware that will continue to promote job growth and positively impact every community across the First State. Delaware families can look forward to funding for the expansion plans at the Port of Wilmington, investments like $75 million in critical beach nourishment projects along our coasts, and the establishment of new EPA authorities to protect our drinking water from regulated and unregulated contaminants. In addition, this bill will expand emergency response authorities to help communities like Blades address drinking water contamination at full federal cost for a longer period of time.”
Senator Carper continued, “I’m glad members of both the Senate and House were able to find areas of agreement and reach a compromise on a major water infrastructure bill that creates good-paying jobs here at home, incentivizes businesses to buy and use American products, invests in critical infrastructure across the country, and expands our investments in drinking water for the first time in more than two decades. At the same time, this legislation will create greater transparency and improve collaboration between local and federal governments to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure -- nowhere is this truer than in this bill. Last night’s progress brings us one step closer to seeing this important infrastructure bill cross the finish line.”
Specifically, the bill:
- Increases the existing height limit authorization for the deposit of dredge material from the Delaware River dredging project from 10 feet to 35 feet, a necessary development to expand the Port of Wilmington at the new Edgemoor location and double its annual output;
- Establishes multiple water resiliency programs to help Delaware communities invest in protecting their drinking water infrastructure from extreme weather events and sea level rise;
- Creates a new small and disadvantaged community program for underground drinking water contamination to help communities, like Millsboro, that face high levels of drinking water contamination;
- Authorizes a series of programs totaling more than $75 million to help Delaware schools address lead in their drinking water;
- Authorizes $75 million in appropriations for a new Mid-Atlantic beach nourishment and shoreline protection pilot program;
- Requires the Army Corps to consider the use of natural infrastructure alternatives – like the dune systems protecting Rehoboth and Bethany Beach – when studying projects to address flood and storm damage reduction;
- Requires the Army Corps to maintain a balance sheet of local funding contributions and expenditures and to either return unspent state and local funds for use in future projects or apply those funds to another local project;
- Reauthorizes the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act (WIFIA) which provides low-cost loans to states, and enhances the drinking water and wastewater financing tools available to local communities;
- Authorizes the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF-WIN) Act to allow small communities to better leverage existing funding;
- Invests in the development of a strong water utility workforce in Delaware and across the country;
- Provides state and local leaders an increased role in prioritizing Army Corps projects; and
- Requires the Army Corps to examine the Port of Wilmington and all ports of call as possible locations for offshore wind deployment.
Read the text of America’s Water Infrastructure Act here.
Carper and Barrasso, together with EPW Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced S. 2800, America’s Water Infrastructure Act. On May 22, 2018, the legislation unanimously passed the EPW committee by a vote of 21 to 0.