WASHINGTON, D.C. – In case you missed it, yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, applauded the committee’s passage of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. Senator Carper is the lead co-sponsor and negotiator of the bipartisan legislation, which received a unanimous 21-0 vote at yesterday’s business meeting and will now be reported to the full Senate for consideration.
“The bipartisan water infrastructure bill approved by our committee is a win-win for Delaware’s economy and our environment. The bill authorizes continued investments in some of Delaware’s most important water infrastructure - helping the expansion plans at the Port of Wilmington to double the port’s economic output, putting beach nourishment projects on a reliable schedule and making them more cost-effective for beach communities, and creating a new $50 million groundwater and well water national testing program. At the same time, we’re advancing Delaware’s environmental conservation efforts, promoting natural infrastructure like the dune systems protecting our beaches and working to clean up our air while combating climate change by requiring consideration of clean, renewable offshore wind deployment at each of our nation’s ports. Water infrastructure touches every community in the First State, and the provisions in this bill will make a difference in every one.”
America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 makes investments in updating and expanding water infrastructure systems throughout the country. Along with reauthorizing the ongoing work of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the legislation addresses a wide variety of priorities, including clean drinking water, farmland irrigation, flood control, ship navigability and beach and shoreline maintenance.
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;
- Creates a new $50 million dollar program for groundwater and well water testing and treatment, and enhances Army Corps emergency assistance authorities to help Delaware communities recover faster, better and stronger after disaster strikes;
- Creates a $25 million dollar water resiliency grant program to help Delaware communities invest in their drinking water infrastructure;
- Authorizes $75 million in appropriations for a new Mid-Atlantic beach nourishment and shoreline protection pilot program;
- Permanently exempts beach renourishment projects from the Army Corps’ budget-to-cost calculations, which previously delayed or stopped a number of these projects;
- Requires the Army Corps to consider natural infrastructure alternatives in studies addressing 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;
- Pushes the Army Corps to complete feasibility studies for new projects in two years, including the Delaware back bays study, designed to help with inland flooding;
- Reauthorizes the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act (WIFIA) and looks to enhance the drinking water and wastewater financing tool for local communities;
- Authorizes the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now Act (SRF WIN Act) to allow rural and 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.