Earlier this week, President Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRDDA). Through WRDDA, Congress authorizes the key missions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers including developing, maintaining, and supporting the Nation's economically vital waterway infrastructure, and supporting critical flood protection and environmental restoration needs.
This is the first WRRDA bill since 2007 and it incorporates a number of policy and fiscal reforms, including:
- The de-authorization of $18 billion in old, inactive projects that were authorized prior to 2007;
- Requiring the Corps to coordinate with all agencies involved in the environmental review process
- Requiring concurrent environmental review; and,
- Ensuring collaboration among all agencies involved among other measures.
The following are some highlights of WRRDA of particular importance to RCRC Counties:
Sutter Basin: WRRDA authorizes approximately $689 million for a flood control measures in Sutter River Basin, including Yuba City. The project would strengthen 41 miles of existing levees, reducing expected annual damages by approximately $50 million.
Natomas Basin: WRRDA authorizes over $1 billion to strengthen the levees in the Natomas Basin (Sacramento) to safeguard more than 100,000 residents, and protect more than $7 billion in property.
WIFIA: WRRDA establishes a five-year pilot program, known as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), to allow the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to provide loans and loan guarantees for flood control, water supply, and wastewater infrastructure projects. This program, which is based on the successful Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) for transportation projects, will provide critical financing for water infrastructure projects identified by local communities. These include projects to help with California's ongoing drought, including desalination, water recycling, and repair of aging water supply infrastructure.
Levee Vegetation: WRRDA requires the Corps of Engineers to update its guidelines for the removal of vegetation on Corps levees after seeking public input. This will ensure that the Corps of Engineers' policy is focused on the highest priority safety concerns for California communities.
Crediting: WRRDA allows local communities to carry out work in advance of the Corps of Engineers and receive credit for work performed. This is important to many California communities that have state or local funding sources that are ready to be invested immediately.
Prioritization of Ecosystem Restoration: WRRDA prioritizes ecosystem restoration projects that address identified threats to public health and preserve or restore ecosystems of national significance. The provision will provide those threatened ecosystems around the nation with additional focused attention, including places like the Salton Sea.
Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund: WRRDA calls for increased expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to support increased maintenance of the nation's ports, including many ports in California. The legislation also includes reforms to the HMTF that will ensure equity for ports that contribute the most to the Fund but receive little funding in return, such as the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. For the first time, these critical ports will be able to use funding for additional projects such as berth dredging and contaminated sediment disposal.
For additional information, please contact RCRC Legislative Advocate Kathy Mannion at (916) 447-4806 firstname.lastname@example.org, or RCRC Legislative Analyst Nick Konovaloff at email@example.com.