Congress Passes Water Legislation

On September 10, Senate and House committee leaders reached a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on comprehensive water infrastructure legislation known as America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.

Agreement on the legislation was announced by U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and committee ranking member Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), along with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

The Act was first introduced as S. 2800 on May 22, 2018 by Sens. Barrasso, Carper, EPW Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Subcommittee chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and T&I Subcommittee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-MD). The EPW committee passed the legislation unanimously with a vote of 21-0.

The agreement authorizes federal funding for water infrastructure projects and programs, maintains navigability of inland waterways and competitiveness of coastal and inland ports, and creates a framework for more stakeholder input and expanded transparency for Corps projects.

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.

Read the text of America’s Water Infrastructure Act here

In addition to this legislation, both the House and Senate passed a $147 billion three-bill fiscal year 2019 minibus appropriations package that includes funds for important projects within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Energy & Water Appropriations for 2019 includes $7 billion to the Corps with $3.2 billion for navigation projects and studies. Another $1.55 billion in funds is coming from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

Included in the bill is a dredge pilot program (Sec. 1111) to award contracts for up to five years for the operation and maintenance of 17 harbors. The contracts will be evaluated for cost effectiveness, reliability and performance, cost savings attributable to mobilization and demobilization of dredging equipment and response times to address navigational impediments.

There is also a section (Sec. 1116) that addressed dredged material management plans aimed at expediting the dredged material plan process using existing information, studies and innovative dredged material management practices. Along with this is Section 1148 that addresses beneficial use of dredged sediment allowing the Secretary to grant temporary easements for placement of material for a single application if warranted.

The full minibus package includes $97.1 billion for veterans and military construction, $44.6 billion for U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation projects and $4.8 billion for operations and security for the U.S. Capitol, Congress and support agencies.