MADISON, Wis. | May 17, 2013
This important legislation will guide the conservation, restoration and development of rivers, coastlines, harbors and waterways in America. S. 601 will impact water resource and infrastructure projects that meet our nation’s water needs, help control and protect from floods and storms, enable navigation, and restore freshwater and coastal ecosystems.
“This legislation means a lot to Wisconsin's economy and water resources,” said Mary Jean Huston, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin. “We congratulate Sen. Baldwin on working with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to pass this legislation and we appreciate her leadership.”
“America is at a crossroads in water resource policy,” continued Huston. “Changing water demands and changing weather patterns are placing evermore pressure on aging water infrastructure. Financial constraints require that we be more deliberate in selecting the most effective investments in management and restoration, including those that utilize natural infrastructure as a lower-cost alternative to traditional gray infrastructure where possible. The bill approved by the Senate today is a step forward in adopting a more rational, cost-effective, watershed-based approach to water resource investment.
“We are now hopeful that the House will draft and approve similar legislation, that includes strong provisions for protection and restoration of our environment so that WRDA 2013 can become law,” concluded Huston.
Specifically, The Nature Conservancy believes that among the positive environmental aspects of the bill are:
- Improving the ability of the Corps to operate water resource projects in an integrated and comprehensive manner and ensuring that investments in new infrastructure provide a broad range of benefits to the American people. Similar provisions should enable the Corps to optimize the operation of existing dams to increase economic, recreational, and environmental benefits. (Sec. 2014)
- Implementation of measures to prevent aquatic nuisance species from dispersing into the Great Lakes
- Clarifying provisions relating to mitigation for civil works projects and facilitate watershed-scale and programmatic approaches to mitigation, including advanced mitigation, that will improve the efficiency and timeliness of civil works projects, enhance cooperation between the Corps, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and others, and that will ensure better environmental outcomes (Sec. 2005 & Sec. 2006).
- Improving and making more transparent the process for independent peer reviews of proposed projects. Such peer reviews can be an important adjunct to other review processes in ensuring that proposed projects are sound from an engineering, financial, and ecological perspective. (Sec. 2007)
- Strengthening support for and improving the restoration of natural systems and the broader use of non-structural solutions to accomplish management objectives, such as authorizing the pilot program for stream-bank stabilization and erosion control. A more comprehensive emphasis on ecosystem restoration and the use of natural infrastructure can increase the economic and social benefits Americans receive from functional natural systems including reduction in risks from intensifying storms, floods, and droughts. (Sec. 2040, Sec. 2043 & Title XI)
- Providing new ways to plan water resource investments on a longer term and larger scale and to finance, fund and deliver those investments to allow participation by a wider range of partners including non-profit organizations. The Conservancy is particularly pleased to see provisions that improve partnership agreements and cost-share provisions. (Sec. 2003, Sec. 2025 & Title X)
- Authorizing regional and multistate authorities that address important water resource needs.
- Continuing the restoration of the Mississippi River, Everglades and Chesapeake Bay ecosystems.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.