New water-resources legislation, including funds for Army Corps of Engineers projects, continues to advance on Capitol Hill as Senate and House lawmakers seek to follow recent history by enacting such legislation every two years.

The latest step forward came on May 22, when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved its measure, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act. 

Differing Senate and House bills to authorize Corps projects are making progress

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was expected to follow suit the next day by clearing the 2018 Water Resources Development Act, which the panel’s leaders introduced May 18. Both bills authorize $2.4 billion to help build six new Corps water projects. More are expected to be added as the Corps finishes Chief of Engineers reports recommending project authorizations. Any authorizations are subject to annual appropriations.

The House committee measure focuses tightly on Corps policies and funding; the Senate panel’s is broader. It includes a section covering Environmental Protection Agency programs, including a $450-million, two-year authorization for sewer overflow control grants.

Although the 2018 Capitol Hill schedule is squeezed by the Nov. 6 elections, industry officials say a water bill could pass by year’s end. Mike Strachn, a senior adviser with water resources consulting firm Dawson & Associates, says, “Everything bodes well for enactment this year.” He notes that the bills have bipartisan backing and align with talk in Washington about infrastructure issues.

John Doyle, special counsel with law and lobbying firm Jones Walker LLP, predicts the full House will vote on a water bill in June. A Senate floor vote would come later. Doyle says the odds that a water measure will become law this year are better than 50-50. He says approval is more likely to come during a lame duck session than before the elections.