This spring, the Senate and House will unveil draft language for the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022. WRDA is Congress’ biennial legislative vehicle to authorize projects, studies, project modifications and policies of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works (or water resources) program. Though there is no fixed timeline (other than Congressional adjournment), WRDA is typically finalized in late summer or early fall.
Last fall, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) solicited project nominations from all Senators. On the House side, February 25 was the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s deadline for project submissions by Members of the House. Both committees could hold further hearings before negotiating details of their respective bills.
In addition, an interesting development this year is the introduction of the Senate bill S. 3624, the “Shoreline Health Oversight, Restoration, Resilience, and Enhancement Act” (https://www.congress.gov/117/bills/s3624/BILLS-117s3624is.pdf) by EPW Chair Thomas Carper (D-DE) and co-sponsored by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA). This bill is essentially a “coastal WRDA” and will likely become a major component of the broader Senate WRDA legislation. This bill would:
Establish shoreline and riverbank protection as a separate mission of the Corps of Engineers;
Set policies for shoreline protection and ecosystem restoration;
Authorize specific new projects and modifications to existing projects;
Emphasize non-structural solutions to flood problems; and
Create several new regional programs that allow the Corps and its non-federal partners discretion to pursue individual projects.
While its policy changes are generally applicable nationwide, the thrust of the legislation is to address water resources needs along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and the Great Lakes.
WRDA legislation historically has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress. Taking nothing for granted, we are cautiously optimistic that WRDA 2022 will gain enough support to become law.
Once that happens, authorized projects and studies are eligible to receive federal implementation funding through the second of the two-step federal process called Budget / Appropriations.
WRDA legislation provides public safety, economic development, job creation and environmental restoration benefits to the entire nation. The WRDA process now unfolding in Congress provides great opportunities for communities, States, local water resources agencies and environmental organizations to seek solutions to a variety of water challenges.
Before joining Dawson in 2003, Mike was Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. He also served as Chief, Legislative Affairs Branch and Deputy Chief, Programs Division (Civil Works) for the Headquarters, Army Corps of Engineers, and in several positions in the Vicksburg District.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dawson & Associates.