Congress Passes Water Resources Bill, Sends to President Obama’s Desk
The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act Receives Strong Bipartisan Support
ARLINGTON, VA | December 10, 2016
The U.S. Senate passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act today by a bipartisan 78-21 vote. The bill included the final version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016.
The Senate’s vote followed a similarly strong vote of 360-61on Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.
WRDA provides the programs, policies and projects regarding the development and restoration of rivers, coastlines, harbors and waterways in America. The bill authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its efforts to meet our nation’s water needs, protect communities from floods and storms, enable navigation, and restore freshwater and coastal ecosystems.
“The Senate’s approval of the final, negotiated bill is an important step forward for projects and policies that will benefit our economy, the environment and the public safety of our nation’s communities,” said Lynn Scarlett, The Nature Conservancy’s Managing Director for Public Policy. “It shows the continued broad support for sensible management of our water resources. The bill includes a stronger focus on the role natural and nature-based solutions can play to help meet the needs of people and communities. Nature is often our first and most effective line of defense against natural disasters such as flooding and storms, so appropriate consideration of nature-based solutions in projects is smart and efficient. While we had hoped Congress might go further, the legislation makes important improvements in the use, protection and restoration of our rivers, coasts and other water resources.”
“We are also concerned about the potential adverse impact of the California water management provision, which reduces protections for critically endangered native fisheries in order to increase water diversions,” added Jay Ziegler, Director of Policy and External Affairs of The Nature Conservancy in California. “We need to strike a better balance, and work together to enhance the ability of both people and nature to cope with highly variable precipitation patterns exacerbated by a changing climate.”
“We congratulate Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for leading the efforts that resulted in these strong supporting votes. We are grateful to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer, as well as House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio for the continued hard work, bipartisan approach and strong leadership that allowed this milestone to happen today,” concluded Scarlett. “We also thank Senators Cory Booker and Mike Crapo, and Representatives Reid Ribble, Rick Nolan and Elizabeth Esty for their hard work to ensure natural and nature-based solutions were included in the bill. We look forward to President Obama signing the bill into law.”
Important policy changes in the bill:
- provide a limited, yet reasonable, time period for how long ecosystem restoration projects should be monitored and actively maintained once a project has achieved its restoration objective;
- improve mitigation projects, including work in advance and considering habitat connectivity;
- clarify that emergency flood responses consider restoration and protection of natural resources, including the use of wetlands, natural floodplains, coastal dunes, and ocean reefs;
- advance the use of nature-based infrastructure and coastal resiliency;
- address the safety of high-hazard dams, including a new funding program to support their rehabilitation or removal;
- improve the use of federal funds for drinking water issues and concerns about lead and other contaminants that continue to plague water supply systems across the country; and
- increase funding for the WaterSMART program, which supports planning and projects to improve water supply resilience and conservation, including prioritizing $50 million for activities in the Colorado River Basin through the innovative System Conservation Pilot Program.
The Conservancy also praised the bill’s inclusion of several specific projects, including the:
- Cedar River Project;
- Central Everglades Planning Project;
- Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration;
- Delaware River Basin Conservation Act;
- Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration;
- Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Reauthorization;
- Green River Lock and Dam Deauthorizations;
- Gulf Coast Oyster Bed Recovery;
- Hamilton City Project;
- Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration;
- New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam;
- North Atlantic Coastal Regional Study;
- South Atlantic Coastal Regional Study;
- Southwest Louisiana Coastal Risk Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration; and
- Washington Skokomish River Ecosystem Restoration Study.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.