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Congress gears up to approve water projects

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

Earlier this fall, the U. S. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee announced that it would accept requests from Senators for water proposals to be included in the 2022 Water Resources Development Act (or WRDA). The Senate Committee’s deadline is December 17, 2021, but each Senator will set their own deadlines and specific submittal requirements. The U.S. House of Representatives is anticipated to start its process soon.

As background, WRDA (typically authorized every two years) is the primary way that Congress approves Army Corps of Engineers water resources programs, including flood control and navigation projects, modifications of existing water projects and studies of potential projects. In addition, WRDA legislation often establishes new programs for the agency and can modify its policies for studying, constructing and managing water projects large and small. Once authorized, a project (or study or modification) is eligible to receive funding for the federal share of the work.

Anyone seeking to put forward a proposal in this process should ideally have the following:

1. A good product

The project should be demonstrably in the federal interest, taking into such things

as such as being economic viability, environmentally benefits, addressing a public

need and other factors.

2. A qualified non-federal sponsor

The requestor (frequently a flood control agency, port authority and city/state

government) should be able to pay its cost-share for the activity, provide sufficient

documentation and justification, and be technically proficient.

3. Ample coordination with the agency

The initiative should be coordinated with, and ideally supported by, the local Corps

of Engineers District office.

4. Congressional champions

The requestor should seek active engagement from Members of Congress who are

affected by the project.

The WRDA process is complicated and uncertain, but persistence and know-how usually pay off. Though the Senate process will reach an initial internal deadline in mid-December (with submission of Senators’ requests), its legislative process likely won’t get fully underway until the spring 2022. And as previously mentioned, the House Committee (Transportation and Infrastructure) will probably be asking House Members for their WRDA requests in early 2022.

Mike Strachn

Senior Advisor

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.

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