Senate Democrats

H.R. 1495, the Water Resources Development Act of 2007

Summary and Background

The House of Representatives passed H.R.1495, its version of the Water Resources Development Act, on April 19, 2007.  Chairman Boxer will offer a substitute that strikes everything after the enacting clause.  The Substitute is cosponsored by Committee Ranking Member Inhofe and Subcommittee Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Isakson. Modifications to the bill, which is based on S.1248, were made to correct the ambiguous language that caused the Congressional Budget Office to issue a cost estimate of over $31 billion.  Open-ended programmatic authorizations and new program authorizations were either reduced or time limited to reduce the authorization level of the substitute to less than that of the House-passed legislation.

On March 29, 2007, the Environment and Public Works Committee held a business meeting to consider a draft of the Water Resources Development Act.  The draft bill was adopted without amendment.  The bill was ordered reported by voice vote and placed on the Senate calendar on April 30, 2007 as S.1248.

The legislation would authorize the projects and programs of the Civil Works Program of the Army Corps of Engineers.  The Corps constructs projects for flood damage reduction, navigation, ecosystem restoration, recreation, hydroelectric power, water supply, aquatic plant control, and hurricane and storm damage reduction. 

Since the landmark Water Resources Development Act of 1986, Congressional intent has been to reauthorize WRDA every two years.  The last WRDA bill, however, was enacted in 2000.  Both the Senate and the House passed water resources bills in the 109th Congress.  While conferees were appointed, no conference agreement was reached. 

The Senate bill includes authorization for new projects for navigation; flood and coastal storm damage reduction; ecosystem restoration and environmental remediation; and water storage and water quality.  The sections of the bill commonly considered “Corps reform” are unchanged from the language approved by the Senate in 2006.

Major Provisions

Title I: Water Resources Projects

H.R.1495 Substitute wouldauthorize projects for the Army Corps of Engineers, including:

  • Forty-four projects for water resources development, conservation, and other purposes “substantially in accordance” with the plans recommended in the reports referenced in the bill language and subject to the conditions of a favorable final report from the Chief of Engineers;
  • Navigation improvements and ecosystem restoration for the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway System and a program for ecosystem restoration in the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA); and
  • Ten small projects for flood damage reduction, navigation, and aquatic ecosystem restoration.

Title II: General Provisions

Subtitle A: Provisions

H.R.1495 Substitute would authorize the activities and programs under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers.  The bill would:

  • Authorize the Corps to provide credit for in-kind services made by the non-federal sponsor toward the non-federal share of the cost of a project with certain requirements;
  • Modify the existing authority to provide support for other federal agencies and international organizations by allowing the Secretary of the Army to also provide support to foreign governments after consultation with the Department of State;
  • Authorize the Corps to allow non-federal interests to enroll in training classes and courses offered by the Army Corps of Engineers and to recoup expenses incurred in providing these services;
  • Direct the Corps to submit an annual report to Congress each January detailing expenditures from the previous fiscal year and estimated expenditures for the upcoming fiscal year;
  • Require the Secretary to assess each water resource project’s and project increment’s cost-effectiveness and compliance with local, state, and national laws, regulations, and public policies, and regularly update the Corps guidelines used to conduct such assessments;
  • Establish the Water Resources Planning Coordinating Committee composed of Cabinet Secretaries, the EPA Administrator, and the Chairperson of the Council on Environmental Quality, to compile a Water Resources Priorities report and regularly review and update methods used to analyze and evaluate water projects;
  • Require independent peer review of Corps projects including any project that is estimated to cost at least $40 million, any project where the governor of an affected state requests a review, any project where the head of a federal agency that is charged with reviewing a project determines that the project will have a significant adverse impact, and any project where the Secretary determines the project is controversial;
  • Establish requirements for safety assurance reviews;
  • Amend mitigation requirements for fish and wildlife losses;
  • Authorize $5 million annually for the Secretary, upon request of a governmental agency or non-federal interests, to provide technical assistance at federal expense for hydrologic, economic, and environmental data and analyses and eliminates the $500,000 per state limitation;
  • Authorize $2 million annually to establish a program to provide public access to water resources and related water quality data;
  • Establish criteria for budget priority for flood control construction projects by non-federal interests;
  • Authorize $15 million annually for the Corps to engage in the regional planning and implementation of water resources and environmental restoration projects for regional sediment management;
  • Permanently reauthorize the National Shoreline Erosion Control Development and Demonstration program and permit the federal government to cost share the removal of a project that has failed to the extent that it endangers property, infrastructure or lives;
  • Authorize the Secretary to cost share in the monitoring of ecosystem restoration projects for a maximum of ten years and not to exceed five percent of the project’s original construction costs;
  • Authorize the Secretary to carry out measures in cooperation and coordination with states, tribal governments, and local governments to more effectively and efficiently meet the water resource needs in watersheds containing reservoirs operated and maintained by the Army Corps;
  • Lift federal operational restrictions on the federal hopper dredges Yaquina and Essayons;
  • Authorize the Secretary to participate with local authorities on firefighting;
  • Permit a nonprofit organization acting with the consent of the affected unit of government to be a non-federal sponsor of a federal project;
  • Improve project tracking practices; and
  • Authorize the Secretary to review a shore protection project prior to terminating federal financial participation in the project to determine whether it would be feasible to extend federal participation.

Subtitle B: Continuing Authorities Programs

H.R.1495Substitute would:

  • Authorize $7 million per project for the small navigation continuing authority program;
  • Authorize $1.5 million per project for the emergency streambank protection continuing authority program;
  • Authorize $30 million per year for the aquatic ecosystem restoration continuing authority program;
  • Authorize $30 million per year for the modifications to existing projects for improvement to the environment continuing authority program;
  • Authorize $10 million per year and $5 million per project for a new program, Projects to Enhance Estuaries and Coastal Habitats, for estuary habitat restoration;
  • Expand the existing Remediation of Abandoned Mine Sites (RAMS) program into a continuing authority program, with an annual authorization of $20 million, by authorizing the Corps to perform construction activities associated with remediation of abandoned mines, to cost share with non-profit organizations and adjust the cost share requirement, and to define the operation and maintenance costs to be 100 percent non-federal;
  • Create a new continuing authority program, Small Projects for the Rehabilitation or Removal of Dams, for improvement of the quality of the environment, authorized at $10 million per year and $5 million per project;
  • Authorize the Secretary of the Army to develop criteria for federal participation in remote harbors without the need to demonstrate that the project is justified solely by National Economic Development benefits; and
  • Amend the conditions of partnership agreements.

Subtitle C: National Levee Safety

The bill would:

  • Authorize the establishment of the National Levee Safety Committee, consisting of representatives of federal agencies and state, tribal, and local governments to oversee the National Levee Safety Program with state levee safety agencies;
  • Require an inventory and assessment of current levees and prioritization of levee safety projects based on risk of loss of human life and risk to public safety to be updated periodically;
  • Require states to conduct assessments of non-federal levees;
  • Provide funding to state levee safety agencies to establish, maintain, and improve levee safety programs;
  • Provide biannual reports to Congress on the progress of this program; and
  • Authorize $65.15 million for federal requirements under this program and $15 million in Fiscal Year 2007 and $5 million annually through 2011 in state assistance.

Title III: Project Related Provisions

H.R.1495 Substitute would authorize actions and include specific instructions relating to various ongoing Corps projects.

Title IV: Studies

H.R.1495 Substitute would direct the Corps to conduct several studies.

Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions

H.R.1495 Substitute would alter several water programs relating to estuary restoration, water resource development, conservation, and restoration.

Title VI: Project Deauthorizations

H.R.1495 Substitute would deauthorize 55 Corps projects.

Legislative History

On March 29, 2007, the Environment and Public Works Committee held a business meeting at which it considered a draft of the Water Resources Development Act.  The draft bill was adopted without amendment.  The bill was ordered reported by voice vote and placed on the Senate calendar on April 30, 2007 as S.1248 Acomplete substitute will be offered to the bill passed by the House.  The House of Representatives passed H.R.1495, its version of this bill, on April 19, 2007.

Amendments

The DPC will distribute information on amendments when it becomes available.

Administration Position

The Administration has not issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on S.1248 or the substitute.   On April 18, 2007, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a SAP regarding H.R.1495.  The SAP supported provisions that address water infrastructure and aquatic ecosystem restoration in coastal Louisiana and along the Upper Mississippi River, but expressed strong concerns about the cost of the bill, authorization of projects outside the Corps’ mission, restrictions on current authority to use independent review panels, new requirements for the environmental review process, and the Federal proportion of cost-sharing in several projects.

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