The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman, Bill Shuster (PA), has introduced a WRDA 2018 (props for having no silly name). It’s text can be found here: HR 8
Among the provisions that may be of interest to WaterLog subscribers are these:
- A produce that would automatically appropriate all Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund revenues annually after FY 2029
- A modification of the repair standard for post-disaster Corps projects. This one falls into the Dept of Good Intentions. It allows for modifications to be made to the Corps project to make it function better, but it specifies that the repair can be done to either pre-storm conditions or the “design level of protection.” For beach projects, (forgive me DC, Coastal Storm Risk Management projects), there is NO DESIGN LEVEL PROTECTION. In the past, the Corps legal beagles defined design level of protection to mean “the project’s minimum design dimensions that provide for the project’s benefits that would trigger renourishment of the project…..” [emphasis added]. PLEASE: Change this to ‘DESIGN PROFILE OF THE AUTHORIZED PROJECT.” Otherwise, the project only be eligible for repair if it’s minimum amount of sand has been lost and even then, only repair to get it to a point where the project needs a full renourishment. This was not intended to be the case, but the budget crunchers at OMB will love this since the disaster repair is 100% Federal while the full renourishment is cost-shared.
- There’s a great provision on integrated watershed management planning but it only applies to water quality and stormwater. Let’s look at all water resources regionally since what happens off the coast doesn’t stay away from the coast and vice versa.
- You gotta love this: Prior to developing and issuing and new implementation guidance, the Corps is required to actively seek public input. How about extending this to all Corps regulations? What do you think?
- The Corps is required to submit a Backlog report, including the reasons for projects not being constructed. Perhaps Congress should look into the mirror and see that a major reason is lack of congressional funding.
- A lot has been made of whether the Corps should remain in the Defense Department. The bill calls for a National Academies of Science study about the future of the Corps as well as ways for it to improve. This is a very useful section, and I suggest it be followed by inviting private sector management consultants to look into structural and cultural issues throughout the Corps.
- There are several provisions relating to facilitating non-federal initiatives to study and/or construct Corps projects.
- New studies for coastal Virginia and Tangier Island are authorized as is the construction of projects in St. Johns County (FL), Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay (TX), and St. Lucie County (FL).
The Senate giveth; the House taketh. The appropriations bill approved by the full House committee prohibits the spending of any Federal funds to build of the new hopper dredge that the Senate WRDA bill authorizes for shore protection projects.
The House bill also prioritizes the funding of additional navigation work to include channels whose dredging would address “hazardous barriers to navigation due to shallow channels.” I wish they would prioritize so-called low-use Federal changes whose dredging would enable the beneficial use of the sand on nearby shorelines for flood damage prevention or ecosystem restoration. Let’s get the sand that’s trapped in channels—and behind dams—back in the natural system!
Finally, the Administration has issued a position on the House funding bill. It wants money for incentivizing stronger partnerships between the Corps and other agencies and their non-Federal stakeholders. It wants Congress to do more, but they neglected to include any proposals for those programs in the President’s budget request. Given the lack of congressional (but not presidential) earmarks, the lack of those new initiatives in the President’s budget mean that the objection is misdirected.
Have a great weekend! Thanks to PF and TA and DG for the information they provided to me!!