The Senate is scheduled to vote on its WRDA bill (HR 8) later this week or next. It’s been delayed by other matters by at least two weeks already, so we won’t be surprised if there are further delays. The House has already passed its version of HR 8. When the Senate completes action, the differences between the two bills will be negotiated with a vote on final passage of WRDA expected after Labor Day.
The text of the bill that will be voted on when it comes to the Senate floor is different than the one approved by the committee. That’s because the Republican and Democratic leaders of the committee have decided to make some additions and deletions. Below is a listing of several of the most interesting. Section numbers refer only to the manager’s amendment and not to any other version of the bill. If you are interested in any, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ADDED – Congress directs the Corps to report on the status of “each outstanding feasibility study”, including the amount of funds spent to conduct the study. (Sec. 1047)
ADDED – Congress directs the Corps to report on each of its constructed projects including their remaining costs. (Sec. 1048)
DELETED – A provision of the committee-approved bill that enabled a non-Federal sponsor of a project to apply unreimbursed funds to the non-Federal maintenance of the project or the non-Federal cost-share requirement for another Corps project.
DELETED – The law (33 USC 2340(c) says that the estimated non-Federal cost-share of any project authorized before, on or after November 8, 2007 is for informational purposes only. The earlier version of the bill deleted the word “before”. As a result, it remains in effect.
MODIFIED – The committee-approved bill had language regarding beach nourishment projects that are seeking to be reauthorized for an additional 15 years. The proposal that will be voted on modifies that to say: The authorization for an additional 15 years will begin on the date of initiation of construction of the extended period. Projects whose Federal authorization is expiring will have the period of authorization extended for another five years after the enactment of WRDA 2018. (Sec. 3607)
MODIFIED – The important Brandon Road study related to preventing invasive fish species for entering the Great Lakes (Sec. 2306) has been modified to add that the Federal share of the operation and maintenance of any project authorized under the study will be 80 percent.
MODIFIED - In seeking to identify $7.5 billion in inactive studies, the bill would require placing on an interim deauthorization list any project that has not received funding within the last 10 years. There is a procedure for public comment and then issuance of a final deauthorization list. A similar provision has been added for the projects authorized for construction for which no Federal funds were ever obligated and for which the last Preconstruction Engineering and Design funds were last obligated not later than September 30, 2000. (Sec. 2108)
UNCHANGED BUT OF INTEREST – We did an analysis of the Senate bill in a previous WaterLog Update, but here are some provisions that remain the same but are worth noting:
The bill contains a beach nourishment and shoreline demonstration program (Sec. 3111), including up to 5 projects selecting in consultation with State agencies that are intended to foster Federal, State and local collaboration, evaluate the performance of system-wide benefits within individual or multiple States. There’s $75 million authorized for this demo program, but not yet appropriated. [Ed. Whatever happened to the Beneficial Use Pilot Program authorized but not funded in WRDA16?]
“In the case of any project for beach nourishment,” the required easement shall be not less than 100 percent and not more than 200 percent “of the anticipated life cycle of the project.” [Ed. What’s missing in the legislative language is that this applies to instances of nourishment where there is no periodic nourishment built into the project, such as beneficial use.] (Sec. 3120)
Another provision (Sec. 3120) directs the Secretary (meaning the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works) to “proceed with a [beach nourishment] project if the benefits of the project are equal to or greater than the costs of the project.” [Ed. This is directed at shore protection projects whose study, PED or construction funding does not meet the OMB BCR test of 2.5 to 1. The law enacted nearly 50 years ago set the requirement at “greater than” 1:1.]
Another provision (Sec. 1036) effectively directs the Administration not to update a project’s benefit-cost ratio for any project once the Administration considers it budgetable.
A provision authorizes the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study, which is a collaboration among the Corps and other Federal agencies and all 8 Great Lakes states. (Sec. 3606)
The bill expands the availability of the Section 204 Regional Sediment Management Program to the Bureau of Reclamation, a water resources agency serving primarily the inland areas of the 17 western states. (Sec. 3403)
The limit on appropriations for Section 219 (environment infrastructure) projects is increased to between and several new projects are recommended for additional authorization. [Ed. This is a potentially useful program that no recent administration has wanted to fund.] (Sec. 2203)
The bill authorizes several new feasibility studies (Sec. 2001) including the Northshore Flood Risk Reduction study in LA, a coastal Virginia Water Resources study, and a combined ecosystem restoration, flood risk management and navigation study for Tangier Island, VA.
Also, in this are provisions related to the following:
- Hudson-Raritan Estuary Comprehensive Restoration Project (Sec. 2302)
- Plymouth Harbor, MA (Sec. 2305)
- Brandon Road study (Sec. 2306)
- Louisiana Coastal Area (Sec. 2314) and Southwest Coastal Louisiana (Sec. 2317)
- The New Jersey and Delaware Back Bays studies (extended deadline) (Sec. 2321)
- East Hartford, CT (Sec 2325) and Hartford (Sec 2326) flood risk management studies
- Increased authorization limits for various Continuing Authorities Programs (Sec. 3001)
- Long Island Sound program (Sec. 3702)
Last, but not least, the bill starts out with a provision that requires the Corps to give each District a 5-year budget to manage its construction and navigations activities in a collaborative multi-agency intergovernmental manner. It applies to flood damage reduction, water supply, ecosystem restoration, “and other business lines.” Sec. 1001 [Ed. This is an ambitious proposal that deserves to be discussed, whether or not it winds up in the final version of WRDA later this year.]