WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), announced that the Senate and House of Representatives had reached an agreement on the most sweeping infrastructure package to be considered this Congress.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 achieves significant national and Wyoming-specific water infrastructure priorities. As chairman of the EPW Committee, Barrasso was the lead Senate author of the bill.

“America’s water infrastructure needs are significant,” Barrasso said. “By reaching this bipartisan agreement, Wyoming and the nation will see upgrades, reforms, and new initiatives that deliver on the promise of rebuilding our aging water systems. This agreement assures that the long sought goal of major infrastructure legislation under the Trump administration will become law this year.

“Specifically, Wyoming will see an immediate and significant benefit. These include increasing water storage; protecting communities from dangerous ice jam floods; and upgrading old drinking water, dam, and irrigation systems. People from across Wyoming played a critical role in developing this legislation. The positive impacts of this law will be felt across Wyoming for many years.”

Wyoming Provisions in America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 would:

  • Approve the expansion of water storage at the Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) Fontenelle Reservoir in Lincoln County, Wyoming;
  • Require the Secretary of Interior and Secretary of Army to work together on regional sediment management plans and prioritizes funds for reservoir sediment management activities within the Missouri River basin. This will restore the active water storage capacity of these resources. These would include BOR reservoirs in Wyoming and the Upper Missouri River Basin;
  • Authorize a Snake River Basin Flood Prevention Action Plan to protect Wyoming communities in the Snake River Basin. Under the bill, the BOR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) will develop an action plan for each state or portion of state within the Snake River Basin. Such plans will focus on the areas most likely to experience flooding in the next two years and include steps to manage and reduce flood risks within the Snake River Basin. The plan should include what steps the two agencies will take to improve coordination with local stakeholders to help manage and reduce flood risks in the areas most likely to experience flooding in the next two years;
  • Make permanent the pilot program established under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act for ice jam prevention and mitigation and doubles the number of pilot projects;
  • Expedite the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to process take and harassment permits in a timely manner, while maintaining compliance with other laws.
  • Extend 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, including the irrigation project on the Wind River Indian Reservation;
  • Authorize $20 million a year for four years to provide clean water for communities by establishing a pilot program to improve existing drinking water lines and water towers for tribal communities, like the Wind River Indian Reservation, in the Upper Missouri River Basin;
  • Authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to provide $25 million in grants to nonprofit organizations to provide technical assistance and training to small, rural and tribal water systems in order to come into compliance with the Clean Water Act;
  • Extend until 2030 the program to address the deferred maintenance needs of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) dams. Barrasso introduced the Dam Repairs and Improvements for Tribes Act (DRIFT Act) in 2016 and secured its inclusion as a provision in the WIIN Act. This program would include dams such as those on the Wind River Indian Reservation;
  • Authorize $30 million for more inspection stations in the Upper Missouri River Basin to prevent invasive species such as zebra or quagga mussels from getting into reservoirs and waterways in states like Wyoming;
  • Create a process where the Army Corps must provide certainty to states and localities who are applying for approval of water storage projects, that the Corps agrees with the proposed water storage project up front in the process as opposed to denying the project years later in the approval process;
  • Prioritize funding for ecosystem restoration projects that modify existing Army Corps levees in the Upper Missouri River Basin. This could benefit cities like Sheridan, WY, which are working with the Army Corps to do ecosystem restoration to improve aquatic, wetland and riparian habitat along Goose Creek and its two largest tributaries, Little Goose Creek and Big Goose Creek;
  • Establish a ten-year pilot program to expedite the review of applications for permits to expand small community (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. This would benefit cities like Cheyenne, WY that have ongoing cleanup activities with the Corps to address DOD legacy pollution and have projected water supply needs;
  • Expedite flood and drought monitoring in the Upper Missouri River Basin that was authorized in the Water Resources Development Act in 2014.

Background Information:

The legislation supports our nation’s economic competitiveness by increasing water storage, expanding local stakeholder input in Army Corps projects, providing protection from dangerous floodwaters, deepening nationally significant ports, and maintaining the navigability of inland waterways across the country. Barrasso announced the consensus legislation with the leadership of the EPW Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.