WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and committee ranking member Tom Carper (D-DE), Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-MD) released the following statements on the committee’s passage of S. 2800, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. The legislation passed the committee by a vote of 21 to 0.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 supports our nation’s economic competitiveness by increasing water storage, providing protection from dangerous floodwaters, deepening nationally significant ports, and maintaining the navigability of inland waterways across the country. The legislation cuts red tape, increases state and local stakeholder input for water infrastructure projects, and is fiscally responsible. During the meeting, the committee passed a bipartisan substitute amendment to strengthen the bill.

“Our committee has taken an important step towards improving America’s water infrastructure,” said Barrasso. “This legislation will cut Washington red tape, create jobs, and grow our economy. America’s Water Infrastructure Act will increase water storage in the West, protect communities from dangerous floods, and upgrade old drinking water systems. I thank the members of the committee for supporting this bipartisan bill and look forward to passing it on the senate floor.”

“Ninety-nine perfect of all maritime freight that enters or leaves this country moves through waterways operated by the Army Corps of Engineers,” said Carper. “The bipartisan America’s Water Infrastructure Act makes long-overdue investments in the water systems that touch nearly every American community. Investing in our water infrastructure will grow our economy and help create jobs right here at home. I’m grateful to Chairman Barrasso, as well as Senators Inhofe and Cardin, for their work on this bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Army Corps and make smart investments for the future of our economy. While there is more work to do to move these bills across the finish line, today is an important first step, and if we continue to work in a bipartisan fashion, this legislation will serve as a model for the rest of Congress.”

“America’s Water Infrastructure Act is about modernization—updating our aging water infrastructure and maintaining our economic competitiveness,” said Inhofe. “This bill contains real benefits for communities in Oklahoma and across the country by giving state and local stakeholders expanded authorities to fund projects that matter to them, cutting red tape and continues the biennial water resources authorization process I helped recommit Congress to in 2016. Provisions included in this legislation would support key projects in Oklahoma, like the MKARNS deepening and economic development on Eufaula Lake, as well as certainty in water storage pricing for Bartlesville and authorization for the Booster Pump Station in Midwest City. Its passage continues to show that the Senate is committed to passing an infrastructure bill this year. I am pleased that it received bipartisan support from the Committee and urge its swift consideration on the Senate floor.”

“From the goods that come in through our ports to the water that comes out of our taps, every person in this country benefits from improving and maintaining our water infrastructure,” said Cardin. “I have been proud to work with my colleagues to develop bipartisan legislation that will benefit water resources and infrastructure nationwide. Congress has a responsibility as a strong partner with states and localities to repair our nation’s hidden water infrastructure and open waterways.”

The legislation is also sponsored by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), John Boozman (R-AR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).

Background Information:

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018:

Creates Jobs and Grows the Economy

  • Cuts bureaucratic red tape to ensure local communities have more control over which projects receive funding
  • 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
  • Increases transparency by allowing local stakeholders to participate in all consultation meetings
  • Maintains navigation routes for commerce and the movement of goods to keep America competitive in the global marketplace
  • Ensures that we maintain the competitiveness of our coastal and inland ports, and maintain the navigability of our inland waterways
  • Invests in the maintenance and construction of water and wastewater infrastructure
  • Invests in the development of a strong water utility workforce
  • Increases water storage and supply for rural America
  • Repairs aging irrigation systems to grow agricultural based economies
  • Invests resources in the Corps budget process to open up new funding streams for projects
  • Authorizes or reauthorizes important water infrastructure programs and projects that benefit the entire country

Fiscally Responsible

  • Includes $7.5 billion in new deauthorizations – saving tax payers’ 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 the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now Act (SRF WIN Act) to promote leveraging millions in non-federal funds for water projects 

Protects Lives and Property

  • Reduces flooding risks for coastal, inland and rural communities
  • 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

Key provisions in America’s Water Infrastructure Act:

  • The legislation would cut bureaucratic red tape by creating an additional framework for project selection 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 lack of viability.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.