Legislative Update: House Approves WRDA; Senators Introduce Water Infrastructure Bill

On July 14, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation authorizing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out various studies, projects and programs relating to navigation, flood damage reduction, shoreline protection, dam safety, water supply, recreation and environmental restoration and protection. H.R. 2864, the Water Resources Development Act of 2005 (WRDA), passed the House by a vote of 406 to 14.

H.R. 2864 includes funding for the Upper Mississippi River navigation improvement and ecosystem restoration projects, Everglades Restoration Project and the Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration Project. The legislation would authorize or modify 164 environmental-restoration-related projects and studies.

"In this bill, we have been able to get past the rhetoric, identify real issues and come up with workable, bipartisan solutions that will help the Corps of Engineers carry out its important missions," said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-AK), sponsor of the legislation.

The previous day, the Transportation Committee reported out of committee two bills: H.R. 624, a bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to authorize appropriations for sewer overflow control grants; and H.R. 1359, A bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to extend the pilot program for alternative water source projects.

Also on July 14, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, along with Sen. James Jeffords (I-VT), ranking member of the full committee, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), chairman of the subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), ranking member of the subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water, introduced the Water Infrastructure Financing Act (S. 1400), which will provide $38 billion over five years to the nation's cities and municipalities to address aging water infrastructure. The legislation updates and improves upon the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Revolving Loan Funds, provides targeted grant assistance, and includes incentives for innovative and non-traditional approaches to address water pollution, the senators stated.

"The federal government has imposed numerous expensive regulations on our cities and towns without providing sufficient funding to meet our obligations under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act," Inhofe said. "I am pleased to be joined by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in offering bipartisan legislation to address the well-documented funding gap between what we as a nation currently spend and what we need to spend to meet these regulatory mandates and update aging infrastructure. The nation is on the verge of a crisis with its water and wastewater systems, and action must be taken now."

The text of the federal bills can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov.

On the state level, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell signed on July 13 into law Growing Greener II, a voter-approved plan that invests $625 million to clean up rivers and streams; protects natural areas, open spaces and working farms; and shores up key programs revitalize communities across the state.

The legislation provides $230 million to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to clean up rivers and streams; take on serious environmental problems at abandoned mines and contaminated industrial sites; and finance the development and deployment of advanced energy projects. According to the governor's office, nearly 20 percent of the state's rivers and streams are polluted.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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