The infrastructure bill HR 3684 has finally been unveiled and this is what you need to know:
First, before we get too excited, the bill has not been passed yet by the Senate, and the Senate will need to agree with the House on some version of this with likely some amendments, but the importance and size of this proposal cannot be exaggerated – this is a historic investment and speaks to all the commotion on the news (and probably between you and your friends, family and colleagues) about our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and the devastating impacts of climate change and sea level rise.
To put things in perspective, the Corps typically receives $6-7 billion in an annual appropriations bill. This is well over $17 billion total. We only ever see more than that in disaster supplementals. Also, it takes time, planning, and personnel to do the work. Each Corps district expresses its ‘capability’ for each fiscal year which is a reasonable estimate of the amount of work it can undertake and complete with an annual appropriation. Will this overload the Corps? We aren’t sure yet, but fortunately much of the money comes with an ‘available until expended clause,’ meaning it doesn’t necessary have to be spent this year or even next. More details will come as the Senate closes in on a final version with the House. Let’s get into it.
Corps of Engineers
- $30,000,000 for Planning Assistance to States program
- $45,000,000 for Flood Plain Management Services
- $30,000,000 for implementing studies authorized by WRDA 2020
Total figure? Hold onto your hats - More than the Corps has ever received in any annual appropriations bill: $11,615,000,000. This looks, smells and spends like a disaster supplemental.
- $200,000,000 for stormwater and other water-related environmental infrastructure
- $465,000,000 for protection of highways, bridge approaches, public works and nonprofit public services
- $115,000,000 for aquatic ecosystem restoration (CAP 206)
- $1,900,000,000 shall be for aquatic ecosystem restoration projects, of which not less than $1,000,000,000 shall be for multi-purpose projects or multi-purpose programs that include aquatic ecosystem restoration as a purpose
- $2,550,000,000 shall be for coastal storm risk management, hurricane and storm damage reduction projects and related activities targeting States that have been impacted by federally declared disasters over the last six years of which $200,000,000 shall be for shore protection projects
- $2,500,000,000 shall be for inland flood risk management projects, of which not less than $750,000,000 shall be for multi-purpose projects or multipurpose programs that include flood risk management as a purpose
The Chief of Engineers is required to submit a spending plan for these funds not later than 60 days after the enactment of this bill
Operations and Maintenance:
Total figure $4,000,000,000
$626,000,000 of which shall be obligated within 90 days of enactment of this Act, shall be used for necessary expenses to dredge Federal navigation projects in response to, and repair damages to Corps of Engineers Federal projects caused by natural disasters
Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies
$251,000,000, to remain available until expended: Provided, That funding provided under this heading in this Act and utilized for authorized shore protection projects shall restore such projects to the full project profile at full Federal expense (!!!)
- $492,000,000 shall be for National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund grants
- $491,000,000 shall be for contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements to provide funding and technical assistance for purposes of restoring marine, estuarine, coastal, or Great Lakes ecosystem habitat, or constructing or protecting ecological features that protect coastal communities from flooding or coastal storms;
- $492,000,000 shall be for coastal and inland flood and inundation mapping and forecasting, and next-generation water modeling activities, including modernized precipitation frequency and
probable maximum studies;
- $207,000,000 shall be for habitat restoration projects pursuant to section 310 of the Coastal Zone Management Act
- $100,000,000 shall be for supporting improved and enhanced coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes observing systems
- $56,000,000 shall be for established Regional Ocean Partnerships (ROPs) to coordinate the interstate and intertribal management of ocean and coastal resources and to implement their priority actions, including to enhance associated sharing and integration of Federal and non-Federal data by ROPs, or their equivalent
Over $500 million for Stafford Act (Section 205) disaster assistance (parceled out over the next 5 years), $1 billion by cybersecurity grants to states, local governments and tribes, and $1 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund under Section 203 of the Stafford Act. Also, NFIP gets $3.5 billion total over the next 5 years to come from the US Treasury as opposed to any policy premiums.
There is to be over $140,000,000 in grant funding provided for at-risk coastal infrastructure over the next 5-years through the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-saving Transportation (PROTECT) program. This includes evacuation routes that exist in areas that that have a disaster declaration made by either a governor or the President, tide gates that protect access roads and other natural infrastructure that protects and enhances surface transportation assets while improving ecosystem conditions. $25,000,000 is to be made available in 2022.
Infrastructure that addresses the risks from weather events or natural disasters, including coastal flooding, coastal erosion, wave action, storm surge or sea level “change” (their words, not mine), or reduces long-term infrastructure costs by avoiding larger future maintenance or rebuilding costs are all eligible activities.
The legislation also consider projects that provide access to coastal homes, businesses and communities and other critical infrastructure, including access by first responders and other emergency personnel, or access to an evacuation route.
National Highway Performance Program
Provide support for activities to increase the resiliency of the National Highway System to mitigate the cost of damages from sea level rise, extreme weather events, flooding, or other natural disasters.
At this point, you're probably wondering how all of this money is going to be spent - the confusion persists to the Corps HQ and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works levels. This will take time to sort out, and we are doing our best to work with staff and Corps leadership to ensure needs are met across the board.
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