Updated December 6, 2016: This bill has been co-opted by the Senate and amended from its original form to serve as the legislative vehicle for an authorization of water infrastructure projects and drought relief. In its original form, it renamed a federal building and courthouse located in Laredo, Texas after George P. Kazen.
Currently, this bill — known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act — would offer comprehensive authorization for water infrastructure projects that improve America’s harbors, locks, dams, flood protection, and other infrastructure. It is composed of three titles, one of which is the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) which passed the House in September, while the other two deal with safe drinking water and drought relief.
This section would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out projects aimed at improving the nation’s harbors, locks, dams, flood protection, and other water resources infrastructure. It would provide $5 billion in funding for Corps activities which would be offset by de-authorizing $5 billion in funding for projects that had been approved but have since been de-prioritized. (The original version of WRDA contained $170 million for Flint, Michigan and other communities affected by lead-contaminated drinking water. That funding is being included in the forthcoming stopgap spending package.)
It would authorize a variety of navigation, flood risk management, hurricane and storm damage, ecosystem restoration, and recreation or riverline shoreline projects in the following states: Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Assistance for states would be available to go toward water conservation during drought emergencies, flood damage reduction projects, and combined funding for drainage basins, watersheds, or ecosystems that encompass multiple states.
Safe Drinking Water
States and communities would have access to programs to improve their water services and replace lead service lines and other activities to reduce concentrations of lead in drinking water. Assistance would be available for smaller, lower-income communities, tribes and states for water quality testing to ensure compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.
A public notification would be required whenever the enforceable requirements for lead in drinking water are exceeded. Public water systems must notify consumers if the lead action level is exceeded in their drinking water system. If a lead action level is exceeded for the 90th percentile of a public water system’s customers and has significant potential for adverse health effects, EPA must quickly notify the public if the state or local drinking water system fails to do so.
Current or planned water storage and delivery programs that seek to help drought-stricken communities in the West would be expedited by this bill. Additional regulatory flexibility would be granted to allow more water to be captured in existing reservoirs during the winter in California.
The Depts. of the Interior and Commerce would be required to provide the maximum amount of water to Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP) contractors by approving operations or temporary projects as quickly as possible in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. Such operations could include:
Keeping the Cross Channel Gates open as much as possible while protecting migrating salmon;
Implementing turbidity control to protect Delta smelt;
Expanding the window for and expediting review of water transfer requests trhough the Delta;
Creating a process for the Governor of California to request implementation of emergency authorities to increase water supplies or address the drought.
Federal agencies would be directed to cooperate with state and local agencies during any consultation or re-consultation on the coordinated operations of the CVP and SWP. The Depts. of the Interior and Commerce would be directed to conduct quarterly meetings with stakeholders such as environmental, agricultural, recreational or commercial fishing, municipal or other regional interests.
During winter storm events, higher pumping rates would be allowed to increase water supplies in the CVP and SWP so long as that action doesn’t create an additional adverse impact on endangered fish species.
The Secretary of the Interior would be directed to use real-time monitoring and the most updated science to make decisions about operations to maximize fish and water supply benefits. Funding would be authorized for improving salmon and steelhead habitat and studying Delta smelt populations and to protect populations of such fish.