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America's GPA: D+
Estimated Investment Needed by 2020:
$3.6 Trillion

A Big WIIN For Water Resources

December 15th, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

Shortly after 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, the U.S. Senate passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which included a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) title by a vote of 78-21. The vote was one of the final acts of the 114th Congress. The House passed the same bill a few days earlier by a vote of 360-61.President Obama is expected to sign the bill in the next few days. This bill had been months—and in some ways years—in the making. Since the beginning WIIN Thank Youof this year, ASCE has been actively working on getting a water resources bill passed, and restoring it to a two-year cycle. In February, ASCE provided Congressional testimony before both the Senate and House on the importance of passing a new water resources bill. The final bill includes several of our priorities, including the creation of a High Hazard Dam Rehabilitation program and other important infrastructure programs, including authorization of 30 new projects for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. ASCE members sent nearly 5,000 emails to Capitol Hill urging passage during the final days of debate on the bill. Those final few days before the bill’s passage were fraught with consternation as a provision inserted last minute to assist with drought relief to western states rattled environmentalists and the bill’s primary Democratic author, California Senator Barbara Boxer, who worried that water transfers could affect the health of fishery populations. Those concerns did peel off nearly two dozen democratic votes in the Senate, however, the bill ultimately passed with strong bipartisan support. While Congress has vowed to pass a water resources bill every two years (the last one passed in 2014, but before that 2007) the authorization components of the bill still must be funded through annual appropriations. The 114th Congress concluded by passing a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open and running through April 2017. This sort of stopgap funding measure is not the type of major injections of infrastructure investment necessary to reduce the estimated $1.6 trillion infrastructure funding gap that is expected by 2020.  We are hopeful that the 115th Congress will work diligently to fund infrastructure programs and increase federal appropriations to important programs. In the meantime, thank your Members of Congress who voted for WIIN by sending an email. For more, read Congress Unveils Compromise Water Resources Bill

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Congress Unveils Compromise Water Resources Bill

December 6th, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

Congressional negotiators released a newly rebranded water infrastructure bill this week after months of hashing out differences between their respective Water Resources Development Acts (S.2848 and H.R.5303) that each chamber passed earlier this year. The new bill, dubbed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act or WIIN Act not only includes a traditional Army Corps project authorization title, but also other water infrastructure programs such as aid to Flint, Mich. to assist in lead pipe replacement and provisions to help California with drought relief.  The American Society of Civil Engineers sent letters of support to House and Senate leadership. The compromise bill also includes a high-hazard dam rehabilitation and repair program, which was included in the original Senate version of WRDA that passed by a vote of 95-3. Here a few selected sections to keep an eye on: Title I: Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (Army Corps of Engineers projects) Sec. 1108 Funding for Harbor Maintenance Programs Changes the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) formula established in WRRDA 2014 to ensure distribution of funds will be 3% higher than the total resources from the year before.  This ensures that distributions continue to increase, year-over-year, until 100% distribution of the funds in the HMTF are used for their intended purpose. Sec. 1111 Harbor Deepening Allows for a 75 percent federal share on harbor deepening projects up to 50 feet. With new Post-Panamax size ships entering U.S. ports, this provision allows a 75 percent federal cost-share for new construction (not just maintenance) up to 50 feet deep. The federal share was previously 50 percent for new construction deeper than 45 feet. Sec. 1122 Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Establishes a new pilot program for the beneficial use of dredge material. The pilot program allows the Army Corps to undertake 10 projects that would use dredge material for reducing storm surge, promote public safety, enhance aquatic habitat and stabilize shorelines. Importantly, the extra cost of using the material will be covered by the Corps, rather than the non-federal sponsor. Sec. 1184 Considerations of Measures Requires the Corps, in consultation with a non-federal project sponsor to consider the use of natural and nature based features for costal water resources projects. Title II: Water and Wastewater Act of 2016 Sec. 2101 Sense of Congress on Appropriation of Levels While it’s not compulsory, this section provides language that supports a theme President-Elect Trump supports: increasing appropriations to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. Sec. 2201 Drinking Water Infrastructure Provides funds to assist Flint, Michigan to replace lead service lines. Sec. 2202 Sense of Congress Provides $20,000,000 for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. Title III: Natural Resources Sec. 3801 Reauthorization of Water Desalination Act of 1996 Reauthorizes $40 million for research, design and construction program to advance desalination. Sec. 5006 Rehabilitation of High Hazard Potential Dams Establishes a high hazard dam repair, rehabilitation or removal grant program under the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Authorized at $445 million over ten years. Stay tuned to the @ASCEgovrel Twitter for progress on the bill in the coming days.

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Help Get WRDA Finished

December 2nd, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

With plans for Congress to adjourn at the end of next week, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 is still waiting for final passage. The bill is being conferenced by the House and Senate, which has been making good progress on a compromised bill that incorporates parts of each chamber’s version of WRDA. However, in the past 24 hours there have been some political roadblocks that may put a final bill in jeopardy. To help raise the grades for dams, inland waterways, levees, ports, and drinking water we need you to take action now! Call the House and Senate Leaders, House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and ask them to move WRDA to the floor for a vote before Congress adjourns for the year. Together we can help WRDA cross the finish line in 2016, getting it back on the two-year cycle that authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other water resources programs.

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Stakeholders Weighing on Final Water Resources Package

November 3rd, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

As the last remaining standalone infrastructure bill with a chance of becoming law this year, stakeholders for the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016 are beginning to double down on their priorities by weighing in with the leaders charged with reconciling difference in the House passed and Senate passed versions. The House and Senate both passed WRDA bills before heading home for the campaign season. Here are a few letters infrastructure stakeholders have sent to Committee Leadership this week to help get this bill cross the finish line and become law   Full Use of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Groups such as the National Manufacturing Association, American Society of Civil Engineers and American Association of Port Authorities signed a letter to advance language in Sec. 2003 of S.2848, which would ensure that the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is allocated the fullest extent practicable each year. Drinking Water and Clean Water Organizations representing the nation’s drinking water and wastewater utilities, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, National Association of Clean Water Administrators and Association for Metropolitan Water Agencies urged congress to adopt Title VII of S.2848, which would provide important policy changes and authorizations to improve our nations drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Natural and Nature Based Features Conservation groups, such as the Nature Conservancy and engineering groups like CH2M and the American Society of Civil Engineers teamed up to support language in the House WRDA bill that promote the use of natural and nature based features in water resources development projects. In addition to stakeholder letters, several Senators sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the Environment & Public Works Committee and the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee encouraging inclusion of the dam rehabilitation provision. The House and Senate have just a few short weeks to reconcile the differences in their respective WRDA bills, but a 95-3 vote in the Senate and 399-25 vote in the House, we’re confident Congress will send a new WRDA bill to President Obama before the end of the year.

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WRDA Passes The House

September 29th, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5303 the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 late yesterday afternoon by a vote of 399-25. The $11.5 billion bill authorizes over three dozen Army Corps of Engineers flood control, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects and studies across the country.  In addition to the base text reported out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee nearly 40 amendments were added to the bill on the House floor. The final amendment to the bill authorizes $170 million in aid for Flint, Michigan to assist with the drinking water crisis. For months Congress has been struggling with how to respond to the drinking water issue in Flint. At one point earlier this week, democrats were prepared to shut down the government unless the Flint issue was resolved. Around midnight Tuesday, leaders agreed to address Flint in the House WRDA bill, which cleared the way for both short term government spending bill and gave WRDA the votes necessary to pass. Prior to the Flint amendment, democrats threatened to block the bill because another provision requiring funds in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to be spent every year was stripped out last minute. Democrats led by T&I Ranking Member Peter Defazio (D-OR) wanted to ensure the HMTF was used to the fullest extent each year, whereas now its funds are subject to an unpredictable annual appropriations process. The House WRDA bill is much narrower than the version passed in the Senate two weeks ago by a vote of 95-3. The Senate bill includes a similar list of Army Corps projects, $220 million for Flint and an entirely separate title dedicated to improving the nations drinking water and clean water infrastructure. The additional water infrastructure programs will be the subject of intense the negotiations between Senate and House staff while Congress is home campaigning prior to the November election. When congress returns for the lame duck session in December, the hope is there will be agreement on a WRDA bill that both chambers can easily pass and send to the President’s desk. Congress has committed to passing a WRDA bill every two years, with the last one passing in 2014. Prior to that WRDA bills passed in 2007 and 2000.

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National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit Talks Infrastructure

August 11th, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

This week the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) held its  annual Legislative Summit in Chicago.  Approximately 5,000 state legislators, legislative staffers, federal officials and others gathered to gain invaluable knowledge from experts and fellow legislators to take back to their respective states. Attendees participated in an array of policy-producing committee meetings, issue forums and deep-dive sessions, including on infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers attended to lend our expertise and share the message of the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure and the Failure to Act economic study during sessions and in conversation. One such session was on the “Multisector P3 Partnership,” which featured national experts and state leaders discussing emerging policy issues surrounding the expanding P3 industry and its potential role in helping strengthen public infrastructure assets in water, energy, transportation and others. Another session of note, titled “Crystal Clear? State Efforts to Improve Water Planning,” was a panel discussion on how states are working to bring together the agriculture industry, urban areas and clean water advocates to address efforts to maintain healthy water resources, and consider future demand and supply of this important resource. This session featured ASCE Past-President Greg DiLoreto P.E., P.LS., D. WRE, Pres.13.ASCE and fellow panelists Tom Curtis, former deputy executive director of American Water Works Association, John Covington from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Chris Kolb from the Michigan Environmental Council. The conversation included a discussion of the infrastructure investment gap, funding mechanisms including state revolving funds, and how to ensure drinking water quality. This session was one of eight session chosen to be live streamed and archived on the Summit’s website.    

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Water Financing Experts Share Ideas to Improve Local Infrastructure

July 20th, 2016 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

This Tuesday, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted a day-long event in Washington, D.C., for representatives from the public and private sectors to discuss emerging finance methods for addressing deficient community water infrastructure. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy opened the day stressing the need to “start thinking about these [water resources projects] as investments, not expenses.” She went on the recognize the success of the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which has provided over $111 billion to communities since 1987 for water resources projects. Tuesday’s event included a mixture of expert panel presentations and follow-up discussions designed to address water infrastructure financing issues from a variety of federal, state, and local perspectives. The first panel of the day included municipal leaders from Jackson, Mississippi, and Atlanta, Georgia. The panelists emphasized the importance of seeking out new regional community partnerships and emerging public-private partnerships, like Atlanta’s Care and Conserve program, as ways to fund water-related projects. The second panel discussion included leaders from several federal agencies and departments and addressed the critical need for greater integration of federal programs supporting water infrastructure investment in economically disadvantaged communities.  Harriet Tregoning, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), lamented that while a person’s zip code shouldn’t have an impact on their basic quality of life water quality disparity is a tragic example of the social inequity that exists between communities. In ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the drinking water and wastewater categories both received “D” grades reflecting some of the challenges these leaders are trying to address. This week’s EPA conference shows agencies, departments, and service providers from across the country are trying to make changes, coming together to share the information, and make water infrastructure financing a greater reality for American communities nationwide, but there is still so much more to do. Find out what we can do to raise these grades. Written by James Kirk, ASCE’s Government Relations intern.

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The High Cost of Underinvesting in Infrastructure: $9 a day

May 10th, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

fta 2016Today’s release of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Failure to Act: Closing the Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future reveals that inadequate infrastructure is costing every American family $3,400 a year in disposable income. The economic study, an update to the initial series ASCE released prior to the 2013 Report Card, identifies the 10-year needs across 10 categories of infrastructure is $3.3 trillion, including a $1.4 trillion investment gap. The $1.4 trillion investment gap comprises:
  • $1.1 trillion throughout the surface transportation network including roads, bridges, transit, and commuter rail.
  • Electricity infrastructure requires an additional $177 billion.
  • The third highest investment gap is $105 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure. 
  • Airports, including the highly anticipated NextGen technology upgrade, require an added $42 billion.
  • America’s inland waterways and ports need an additional $15 billion to close their funding gap.
Our overdue infrastructure bill is costing us time and money. The report identifies the following economic ramifications:
  • $3.9 trillion in GDP, more than the 2013 GDP of Germany
  • $7 trillion of business sales
  • 2.5 million job losses in the year 2025
  • $3,400 in a family’s annual disposable income each year from 2016 to 2025, equal to $9.33 a day.
These findings underscore the findings of the initial Failure to Act series, showing the economic benefits of infrastructure investment reverberate through every sector of the economy, while the economic losses that come from deferred investment also become worse over time. Furthermore, the longer we delay the more likely we are to need to replace the infrastructure rather than repair it. America is currently spending more failing to act on our investment gap then we would to close it. Inefficient infrastructure is costing every household $9.30 a day. However, if every family instead invested an additional $3 a day per household, we could close the infrastructure investment gap in 10 years. By increasing the investment by $144 billion a year for the next 10 years at the federal, state and local levels, we can upgrade our infrastructure, and protect our GDP, jobs, families’ disposable income and our nation’s competitiveness.

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Water Resources Bill Passes Senate Committee

May 5th, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

On April 28 the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) advanced a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) by a vote of 19-1. The $9 billion bill authorizes new projects and studies at the Army Corps of Engineers, adds a dam rehabilitation component to the National Dam Safety Program, establishes a new Water Infrastructure Trust Fund and provides $220 million in aid for Flint, Michigan. The last WRDA bill passed Congress in 2014. Water resource bills were once viewed as so important that Congressional leaders tried to pass one every two years. The legislation is the main mechanism for authorizing new projects at the Army Corps of Engineers—the nation’s largest manager of flood control, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects. But with partisanship, fiscal constraints and a self-imposed a ban on earmarks, getting these important projects approved and funded has become more and more difficult. WRDA bills also can provide policy changes to existing programs across the federal government on issues such as drinking water and wastewater, which have become increasingly important in the wake of the Flint, Michigan lead crises. The legislation approved last week will address western drought issues, increase federal drinking water and clean water infrastructure funding, strengthen the nation’s levees, and make changes to the nation’s dredge material policy, making it easier to use for ecosystem restoration projects. These issues were important to several members of the Committee from western states, coastal states and states with older water infrastructure systems. Important to the civil engineering profession was that both the dam rehabilitation program and drinking water revolving fund program will be subject to Qualifications Based Selection (QBS)/Brooks Act requirements—another priority of ASCE. The strong vote for the bill is a rarity in Congress and committee staff are optimistic the bill will advance to the Senate floor at the beginning of summer. The House is expected to introduce their version of the bill in late May.

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Water Week Highlights Diverse Needs Across the Country

April 13th, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

Over 100 water and wastewater utility managers, operators and engineers visited Washington, D.C. this week to advocate for more federal investment in water infrastructure. Lead by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and several other sponsoring organizations, including the American Society of Civil Engineers  (ASCE) the week provided an opportunity for water industries to join together with a single voice and stress the importance of providing clean water services to the public and the role of the federal government. On Tuesday, water experts took to Capitol Hill to discuss federal water issues, including responding to the Flint, Michigan water crises, the need to increase federal water infrastructure appropriations and educate lawmakers on newly authorized but stalled financing programs such as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). Water infrastructure has become a hot topic on Capitol Hill over the last several months as the story of Flint, Michigan shot into the national spotlight after that city was found to have exceptionally high levels of lead in its drinking water. Lead exposure is extremely dangerous to children. The crises ignited a national conversation about water infrastructure systems and the role of local and federal government in ensuring the systems are safe and well maintained. Other water issues from around the country discussed this week included alleviating drought in the west, managing combined sewer overflows and storm water management in mid-sized, sprawling cities. To alleviate drought, many experts have argued for investments in desalination, water reuse and adding storage capacity in western reservoirs. To combat combined sewer overflows, which the EPA recently estimated will cost nearly $50 billion to fix, some cities are investing in green infrastructure projects. Green infrastructure can help reduce both CSO and stormwater issues by mitigating the amount of stormwater entering a combined system, by letting the water naturally infiltrate where it falls with the use of bioswales and natural retention areas. Water week is timely this year not only because the need to shine a light on the crisis in Flint, but also because Congress is considering a range of options to address water infrastructure issues in the upcoming Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), slated to be marked up by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) at the end of the month.

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