This bill — the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 — would provide for improvements to America’s ports, inland waterways, locks, dams, flood protection, and ecosystem restoration by reauthorizing related U.S. Army Corps of Engineers activities for two years through fiscal year 2020. It would also maintain the two year cycle of the Corps proposing, evaluating, and reporting potential projects to Congress so they can be vetted for inclusion in future Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bills. Additionally, the bill contains provisions aimed at improving the nation’s drinking water infrastructure and hydropower capacity, a breakdown of which can be found below.
This part of the bill would authorize work on projects contained in the Corps’ Chief’s Reports received since the last WRDA law of 2016. Such reports detail water resources infrastructure projects that have been proposed at the local level in consultation with the Corps, provide national economic and environmental benefits, and have been vetted by congressional committees. A total of six water resources projects that have gone through this process would be authorized, including:
Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay (Texas): $2.16 billion in federal funding for hurricane and storm damage risk reduction;
Savannah Harbor Expansion (Georgia): $677.6 million in federal funding would be authorized;
Ala Wai Canal (Hawaii): $199 million in federal funding for flood risk management;
Mamaroneck-Sheldrake Rivers (New York): $53.5 million in federal funding for flood risk management;
Galveston Harbor Channel Extension (Texas): $10 million in federal funding to improve navigation;
St. Johns County (Florida): federal funds would total $5.7 million initially with $9.5 million renourishment for hurricane and storm damage risk reduction;
St. Lucie County (Florida): federal funds would total $7.1 million initially with $8.9 million renourishment for hurricane and storm damage risk reduction;
Kentucky River Locks and Dams (Kentucky): No funding would be required as this is a modification of an existing project.
All new authorizations would be fully offset by the deauthorization of inactive projects. Specifically, this bill would deauthorize $3 billion in projects that were authorized before November 8, 2007 but haven’t begun planning, design, construction or received funds in the last six years. There would be a 180 day period of congressional review, at which point they’d be deauthorized.
Additionally, the bill would:
Reauthorize the Levee Safety Initiative and the National Dam Safety Program through 2023.
Allow the Corps to accept funds from non-federal sponsors to advance studies and project elements, which would be detailed in the Corps’ annual report to Congress.
Require the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the current organizational structure of the Corps’ civil works functions, identify impediments to efficient project delivery, and provide recommendations to Congress.
Authorize studies for projects included in the Corps’ 2017 and 2018 annual reports to Congress.
Drinking Water System Improvement
This part of the bill would authorize more than $4.4 billion over three years for the state drinking water revolving loan fund program, which finances state projects to repair or improve drinking water systems.
All water systems serving more than 10,000 people would be required to produce at least two consumer confidence reports per year that convey information about drinking water quality in an understandable and non-technical manner.
It’d also provide states and utilities with compliance assistance and asset management, while updating anti-terrorism and resilience measures at public water systems.
Over the next two fiscal years, $100 million would be authorized for areas affected by natural disasters that need help repairing drinking water systems or hooking up to other systems to obtain potable drinking water.
This part of the bill would aim to promote the use of clean, baseload hydropower by streamlining the regulatory permitting process. Specifically, it’d allow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to extend a preliminary permit from two additional years to up to four additional years and to extend the commencement of a construction deadline for up to eight years.