Congress Passes Water Resources Bill, Sends to President Obama’s Desk
The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act Receives Strong Bipartisan Support; Includes Additional Funding for Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration
ARLINGTON, VA | December 12, 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. It will also authorize an additional $40 million in spending on oyster-restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay, allowing for more projects like those The Nature Conservancy and partners have conducted in Maryland’s Harris Creek and Virginia’s Piankatank River.
“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.”
“With more resources being authorized for oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay, we have the chance to make an even greater impact on the health of the Bay by scaling up efforts to bring back one of the most critical pieces of the ecosystem,” said Nikki Rovner, Associate State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Virginia. “We’d like to thank the Virginia/Maryland congressional delegation for their part in passing this legislation.”
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.
In additional to Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration, the Conservancy also praised the bill’s inclusion of several specific projects, including the:
- Cedar River Project;
- Central Everglades Planning Project;
- 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 unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 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.