The congressional push to pass a new water resources bill has taken a step forward with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s approval of a measure that would authorize $24.7 billion for an array of 21 Army Corps of Engineers' water projects.
The committee cleared the new Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, on May 4, by a 20-0 vote.
[View webcast of committee session here.]
Lawmakers are aiming to continue the practice in recent years of approving a WRDA every other year.
The next step for the 2022 legislation in the Senate would be a floor vote.
In the House, no WRDA bill has emerged yet this year, but industry officials have said that work in that chamber on a new measure has been continuing behind the scenes.
Senate committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said at the panel's voting session that the biennial WRDA schedule would ensure "timely congressional authorization of Army Corps studies and projects that support our economy, restore critical ecosystems and protect our communities from extreme weather, like flooding and like drought.”
Carper also said that the bill “better equips the Army Corps to address the threat that climate change poses to our coastal communities.” He said that more than 128 million Americans live in coastal counties.
To deal with rising sea levels, Carper said bill would establish protecting and restoring shorelines and riverbanks from erosion and other effects of higher sea levels as a "primary mission of the Army Corps."
The largest individual project authorization is $19.2 billion for a plan to protect Texas coastal areas from storms.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), the committee’s top Republican, said that the Texas project “will ensure critical port assets can continue to serve our country’s shipping and supply chain needs, moving forward,”
Capito also said the project would "provide a vital corridor for our nation's energy industry."
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) said the new WRDA would for the first time provide authority for the Corps to “address drought risk-management and water-supply conservation needs when planning, constructing and operating water resources development projects and programs.”
“This is a big deal for Arizona,” Kelly said, noting that the Corps at present lacks permanent authority for new projects that aim to reduce the risk of drought.
Total project authorization figure corrected on 5/10/20 to $24.7 billion.