A Resolve for Clean Water Goals

Second session of 110th Congress may prove even more fruitful

October 18, the day the Clean Water Act (CWA) became law 35 years ago, came and went without any significant water laws being enacted. But just 19 days later, Congress overrode President Bush’s veto of the Water Resources Development Act. The new law authorizes $23 billion for projects that affect waterborne commerce on rivers and coastlines, habitat restoration, and the environment. The money still must be appropriated, however.

The House of Representatives passed Resolution 725 two days before the anniversary.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the resolution, which had 36 co-sponsors. It passed by voice vote and resolved that the House would:

• recognize the 35th anniversary;

• recommit itself to restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters in accordance with CWA goals and objectives;

• dedicate itself to working toward a sustainable, long-term solution to address decaying water infrastructure; and

nencourage the public and all levels of government to recognize and celebrate the nation’s accomplishments and renew their commitment to restoring and protecting the rivers, lakes, streams, marine waters, and wetlands for future generations.

Resolutions do sound good, but what do they really do?

In its defense, the House did initiate many of the water-sector bills that are pending in the 110th Congress.

The following examples provide a glimpse of authorized appropriations:

The financing (HR 720) and investment (HR 569) bills have not gone as far through the legislative process. Both were referred to Senate subcommittees in March. But the Water Quality Financing Act authorizes $14 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2008 through FY 2011 to the state water pollution control revolving funds. The Water Quality Investment Act authorizes about $1.7 billion for FY 2008 to FY 2012 for sewer overflow assistance.

From the bills reviewed here, Congress tried to represent many of its needful constituents, sustain good old programs, and address critical needs. Two of the bills— Healthy Communities Water Supply Act and Small Community Drinking Water Funding Act—target small systems that often do not have the service base to leverage higher rates and more funding. The Great Lakes Water Protection Act gets serious about dumping and proposes increased fines while the Water Security Act provides $200 million to be granted to water or wastewater facilities that need to perform vulnerability assessments or make security enhancements. The Farm Bill goes a long way toward addressing nonpoint source runoff from farming operations through its conservation and watershed programs.

One forward-looking bill—The Healthy Communities Water Supply Act—would revive an expired pilot program for alternative water source projects. According to Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), this bill would authorize $125 million to finance pilot projects to recycle or reuse water. “Given the scarcity and challenges we face, this is just a start,” Cardoza told his colleagues when he introduced the measure. They apparently agreed, passing the bill 368-59.

The heart of Congress appears to be in the right place for the water sector. The new hope is that this momentum will carry through the second session and, as they should, many of these bills will be enacted.

Name of bill
What it would do
Water Quality Financing Act
(HR 720)
Authorize appropriations for state water pollution control revolving funds Passed March 9 in the House;
referred to Senate subcommittee
Water Quality Investment Act
(HR 569)
Require projects receiving sewer overflow control grant assistance be subject to the requirements of projects receiving assistance from revolving funds Passed March 7,2007, in House, referred to Senate committee March 8
Healthy Communities Water Supply Act
(HR 700)
Authorize appropriations for the pilot program for alternative water source projects
and would require EPA to consider whether a project seeking a grant is in an
area served by a public water system used by less than 10,000 people
Passed March 8 in House, referred to Senate committee on March 9
The Beach Protection Act
(HR 2537 and S 1506)
Include among eligible grant activities the development and implementation of  programs for source tracking, sanitary surveys, and prevention efforts to address referred to respective committees identified sources of beach water pollution and authorize appropriations for grants through FY 2012  Bills introduced May 24 and referred to respective committees
Raw Sewage Overflow Community Right to Know Act
(HR 2452)
Ensure that sewage treatment plants monitor for and report discharges of raw sewage Sent to House committee on May 25
Great Lakes Water Protection Act
(HR 2907)
Establish a deadline for restricting sewage dumping into the Great Lakes and to fund
programs and activities for improving wastewater discharges into the Great Lakes
Sent to House committeeJune 29
Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act
(HR 2419)
Assist farmers using more than $5 billion in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding
to protect water, air, and soil quality as well as wildlife habitat through the Conservation Reserve,Wetlands Reserve, and Working Grasslands programs
Passed July 27 in the House; sent to Senate committee Nov. 6
Small Community Drinking Water Funding Act
(S 1933)
Provide grants to small public drinking water systems Sent to Senate committee Aug. 1
National Infrastructure Bank Act
(HR 3401 and S 1926)
Establish a new system to finance infrastructure projects by leveraging private and public capital to fund large projects HR 3401 to House committee Aug. 3; S 1926 to Senate committee Aug. 1
National Infrastructure Improvement Act
(S 775, HR 3398, and HR 3538)
Establish a national commission on infrastructure to develop recommendations by February 2010 that would outline priorities for the next 5, 15, 30, 50 years S 775 and HR 3398 referred to House committee Aug. 3, HR 3538 referred to House committee Sept. 14
TCE Reduction Act
(S 1911)
Protect the health of susceptible populations by requiring a health advisory, drinking water standard, and reference concentration for trichloroethylene vapor intrusion, and for other purposes Sent to Senate committee Aug. 1
Water Security Act
(S 1968)
Authorize EPA to provide grants for vulnerability assessments of publicly owned treatment works or community water systems, security enhancements, and emergency response, and site security plans Sent to Senate committee Aug. 2
Water Resources Development Act
(HR 1495)
Provide for the conservation and development of water and related resources, to authorize the Secretary of the U.S. Army to construct various projects for improvements to U.S. rivers and harbors Passed both houses, vetoed by Bush Nov. 2, Congress overrode veto Nov. 6
*To review current bill status, visit www.thomas.gov. For this article, information was current as of Nov. 6, 2007.

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

About the Author

L.K. Williams is editor of Water and Wastewater News.

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