Menendez, Booker Applaud Passage of Water Resources Development Act

Menendez, Booker Applaud Passage of Water Resources Development Act

Bill fast-tracks Army Corps projects for flood mitigation along Rahway River, ecosystem restoration in Hudson Raritan Estuary; Approves storm protection from Hereford Inlet to Cape May Inlet

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) today praised Senate passage of the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA), bipartisan legislation to authorize and expedite Army Corps of Engineers projects, improve the nation’s drinking water infrastructure, enhance ecosystem protection, and make investments in the nation’s ports and inland waterways. 

“This is good news for New Jersey,” said Sen. Menendez.  “The Water Resources Development Act includes key initiatives I have fought for to protect New Jerseyans from the threats of river flooding and coastal storms, improve our aging water infrastructure, limit our children’s exposure to lead-contaminated drinking water, and restore the environmental health of our waterways and estuaries.”

“I am proud to help build on the foundation laid by Sen. Lautenberg and to have fought for these critical investments in New Jersey’s water infrastructure and ecosystems,” said Sen. Booker, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), the Senate panel with jurisdiction over WRDA. “This legislation will help protect New Jersey communities from flooding and extreme weather while creating jobs, rebuilding our aging drinking and wastewater infrastructure, and protecting our children from the threat of lead-contaminated drinking water in schools.”

WRDA includes several priorities of both Sens. Menendez and Booker to directly benefit the Garden State:

  • Rahway River Basin Flood Risk Management.  Requires the Army Corps to expedite the completion of the Chiefs Report, and upon completion of the report, to proceed immediately to preconstruction, engineering, and project design to mitigate the flood threat along the entire 82-square-mile Rahway River Basin, affecting 24 communities in Union, Essex and Middlesex Counties.
  • Hereford Inlet to Cape May Inlet.  Authorizes this project to provide enhanced storm protection through the creation of a new dune for the communities of North Wildwood, Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, and Lower Township.
  • Hudson Raritan Estuary.  A Booker-Menendez amendment requiring the Army Corps to expedite completion of the Chiefs Report, and upon completion of the report, to proceed immediately to preconstruction, engineering, and project design to address ecosystem restoration throughout the Hudson Raritan Estuary.
  • Delaware River Basin Conservation Act.  Based on legislation cosponsored by Sens. Menendez and Booker, this provision establishes a Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, under which the Fish and Wildlife Service would create a strategy to coordinate restoration and protection activities across the basin, in consultation with federal and state agencies and basin stakeholders.  The legislation also authorizes $5 million annually for competitive grants and technical assistance to support efforts including habitat restoration and protection, water quality improvement, and flood damage mitigation.
  •  Water Infrastructure Workforce Development Program.  A Booker provision adopted creates an innovative competitive program to assist in workforce development for water utilities.
  • Water Infrastructure Investment Trust Fund.  A Booker provision adopted in the EPW base bill establishes a trust fund for water infrastructure, funded by fees collected for a voluntary labeling system, and to be used for capitalization grants for the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. 
  • Regional Intergovernmental Collaboration on Coastal Resilience.  A bipartisan Booker amendment authorizing assessments of coastal vulnerabilities and opportunities for intergovernmental actions to increase resilience.

WRDA also incorporates many of the proposals included in The True LEADership Act of 2016, originally cosponsored by Sen. Menendez and Booker.  Among these are a new grant program to reduce lead in drinking water, mandatory reporting of elevated lead levels, funding for lead testing in school and child care facilities’ drinking water, and a requirement to use American iron and steel in drinking water infrastructure projects.

  • Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF).  Includes $100 million to provide the assistance to states with emergency drinking water situations through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan program.
  • Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).  Includes $70 million for credit subsidies to allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make secured loans for water infrastructure investments under the WIFIA program.  It is projected that these funds could leverage up to $4.2 billion in loans. 
  • Reducing Lead in Drinking Water.  Authorizes $60 million for a new grant program to replace lead service lines, a common source of lead in drinking water.
  • Lead Testing in School and Child Care Drinking Water.  Authorizes $20 million a year for fiscal years 2017 through 2021, totaling $100 million, for grants to carry out a voluntary school and child care lead testing program.
  • Public Health Investments.  Invests $50 million in public health and childhood lead poisoning prevention programs to address issues related to lead contamination in water.

The bill also includes provisions to clarify targets for spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which supports Army Corps dredging and maintenance projects at ports; creates a new grant program to support repairs of locally-owned high hazard dams; and provides technical assistance and support for research and development to improve water conservation and better handle droughts.