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

Congressional Hearings Focus on Aviation, Flood Control

March 3rd, 2017 | By: Whitford Remer

As the President’s repeated in his address to Congress his pledge to dramatically increase infrastructure spending to the tune of $1 trillion, various Congressional Committees have been holding hearings to explore the need. While the hearings reflect broad and even growing support on Capitol Hill for infrastructure spending, they also illustrate major hurdles, chief among them and one that has bedeviled infrastructure advocates for a very long time, how to pay for it. On the House side, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has begun a series of hearings to highlight the need among specific infrastructure categories. Using the title “Building a 21st Century for America,” the hearings explore the federal role in several infrastructure categories. On March 1st, the Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee looked at the state of the nation’s airports, with a panel of airport executives including Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and the Greater Asheville (NC) Regional Airport Authority. The executives noted different challenges faced by different sized airports and the need for flexibility, both in how they are able to spend grant money received through the Airports Improvement Program (AIP) and the ability to set the appropriate level for the Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) that airports can charge, which has been capped by Congress at $4.50. During the hearing, full Committee Ranking Democrat Peter DeFazio (D-OR) announced he had joined with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) in offering legislation to remove the cap on PFCs and permitting airports to set the level as they see fit. The panel also noted that under the new pricing policies instituted by airlines, while the ticket tax that funds the AIP is applied to the basic ticket, additional charges such as baggage fees are not subject to the tax, costing the program millions of dollars. Finally, both members of the Committee and the panelist agreed that the recent pattern of short-term authorizations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its programs has made it hard to make long-term plans and have increased the cost of the capital projects. ASCE strongly agrees with the airport executives and supports increasing funding for the AIP, removing the cap from the PFCs and longer-term authorization for the FAA. Meanwhile in the Senate, the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled “Flood Control Infrastructure: Safety Questions Raised by Current Events.” The hearing was prompted in large part by the recent spillway deteriorations and ensuing evacuations around California’s Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the nation. Among the witnesses were Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite, Commanding General and Chief of Engineers U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Larry Larson, Director Emeritus & Senior Policy Advisor for Association of State Floodplain Manager. General Seminote talked about his agency’s role in providing flood protection infrastructure across the country. Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) pressed the General on the Agency’s benefit-cost analysis formula for selecting projects, which relies, in-part, on property value. Sen. Barrassso, the new Chairman of the Committee emphasized this type of formula pitted urban project against more rural projects in his home state of Wyoming. Larry Larson and several Senators also raised the important point that there are flood control programs authorized by Congress in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 and Water Resources Development Act of 2016 that have not received any federal funding. Larry Larson also told the panel that private funding will not cover the full cost for dam and levee repair. “Our experience shows that financial incentives are very difficult to apply to these projects,” adding that that federal funding would be needed.

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Democrats’ Infrastructure Blueprint Furthers Legislative Conversation

January 26th, 2017 | By: Becky Moylan

Days after President Trump was the first to use the word “infrastructure” in an inaugural address, Senate Democrats doubled-down on his promise to invest in infrastructure by offering their own plan to increase investment by $1 trillion over 10 years, and purportedly create more than 15 million new jobs in the process. The plan, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and dubbed “A Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure,” proposes many investments that ASCE has advocated for over the last two decades, including in the 2013 Infrastructure Report Card. The obvious one is increased investment. At $1 trillion—a figure originally proposed by President Trump during his campaign—this or a similar plan would go a long way in closing the $1.6 trillion infrastructure investment gap. The “Blueprint” also emphasizes addressing backlogged needs, which have been growing for far too long and are at the root of our nation’s “D+” infrastructure. The “Blueprint” offers a good start to furthering our lawmakers’ dialogue on what a large infrastructure bill should include, and how our nation can wisely invest $1 trillion, ensuring ROI and addressing our significant infrastructure needs. In particular, the “Blueprint’s” approach of dividing investment across the 16 categories of infrastructure is important to improving the entirety of the interdependent infrastructure system. But to make the most of this substantial of an investment with an eye on the future, it will be even more important to select the right projects. ASCE has outlined its vision for what a large infrastructure investment bill should include in our “Principles for Infrastructure Investment.” We will rely on these “Principles” to engage Congress as it reacts to the “Blueprint” and considers a path forward on this critical economic and social issue, balancing needed investment with judicious planning to effectively address our infrastructure needs. Here are some of the highlights of how the Senate Democrats’ “Blueprint” breaks down from ASCE’s perspective*:
  • $210 billion for roads and bridges – ASCE recently identified surface transportation as the infrastructure area with the largest unfunded need.
  • $10 billion to expand TIGER – Increasing funding into proven programs is an excellent way to ensure that the investment is used effectively.
  • $110 billion for water and sewer – The “Blueprint” notes that underinvestment has happened in our drinking and wastewater infrastructure in part because of a hesitancy to increase water rates. An infusion of additional funding will help bring these systems back up to where they need to be for Americans’ safety and quality of life.
  • $180 billion for rail and bus – Divided into $130 billion for public transit and $50 billion for rail, which will include acceleration of implementing Positive Train Control.
  • $200 billion for transformative projects – Vital Infrastructure Projects (VIPs) as the “Blueprint” calls them would help to elevate not just the quality of our infrastructure, but also put us on a strong path for the future.
  • $75 billion for schools – Most of our school buildings were built to originally teach baby boomers and modernization is desperately needed so that schools can prepare students for the 21st
  • $65 billion for ports, inland waterways, and airports – Broken down to $30 billion for airports, including through the effective Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and to implement NextGen, $10 billion for dredging, lock maintenance and other needs for ports and inland waterways, and $25 billion to build more resilient communities, which ASCE has highlighted the importance of as one of its eight key criteria when assessing infrastructure.
  • $100 billion for energy – Including upgrades in transmission and distribution, along with increased resilience.
  • $20 billion for public lands – Directed in part to increased funding for the National Park Service, which infamously has had challenges maintaining its infrastructure, including the iconic Arlington Memorial Bridge.
  • $10 billion in seed money for an “IBank” – Expected to be $100 billion for infrastructure once fully leveraged, this would be a way to test the Infrastructure Bank concept on the national level. The Blueprint also notes the need to protect WIFIA and TIFIA, two programs that like TIGER have proven value and should be used to ensure strategic investment.
Missing from the proposal is funding of water resources projects authorized in WRDA14 and WIIN16. These programs would improve dams, levees, and other water resource infrastructure that are in need of improvement and would benefit from an infusion of investment. One other major sticking point when it comes to federal infrastructure investment: How to pay for it. Democrats maintain the proposal’s $1 trillion investment would be covered by closing tax loopholes.  Under its “Principles,” ASCE supports infrastructure investment from all levels of government and the private sector. Ultimately, our nation needs a long-term, sustainable funding solution for all areas of infrastructure. A down payment to modernize our infrastructure that is funded, not just financed, will put us on the right track. *Italicized text notes ASCE’s comments on specific parts of the proposal based on ASCE Public Policy Statements.

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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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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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Congress Returns to Town — Zika, Federal Budget and Water Resources Legislation All At Play

September 6th, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

Coming off a long summer break, Congress returns today to several realities it left unfinished in June. While a Water Resources bill is the top opportunity for infrastructure policy, other pressing issues may take precedence. In the warm months since leaving town, the Zika virus has spread across Florida and its reach is expected to continue growing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to run out of funds to combat the virus by the end of this month. Legislation to provide additional funding has stalled while legislators clash over Republicans’ inclusion of a prohibition on funding going to family planning medical clinics. In a case of reoccurring déjà vu, Congress must also pass a bill to fund government agencies, before fiscal year 2016 funding expires on September 30th. Congress is meant to pass 12 separate appropriations bills each year to fund the federal government, but this rarely happens. Instead spending bills are usually combined into a single “omnibus” bill. If Congress thinks it won’t be able to pass an appropriations bill(s) before the end of the fiscal year, it passes a continuing resolution (CR) which extends the previous year’s funding levels with minor changes. With the House having passed only five appropriations bills and the Senate having only passed three, they are now expected to turn their focus to a CR. The length of the CR is up for debate. For some Senate Republicans, who are in jeopardy of losing Senate control to Democrats, passing a longer-term (i.e. six month) CR would mean “giving away the store” to Democrats. They would prefer a two-month CR, leaving them in the majority for passing an omnibus during a lame-duck session. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would also like a short-term CR and has said he opposes any bill that goes past December. Outside conservative groups and some House Republicans want a longer-term deal—at least in to the new year/new Congress—to avoid a year-end deal-making session between a lame-duck Congress and a lame-duck President in which Democrats could force Republicans to accept additional spending or risk a shutdown at Christmastime. One glimmer of hope in all the legislative fights left on the calendar is consideration of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016. Each chamber has passed a version of the major water infrastructure bill out of committee and the bill now awaits floor action. In an election cycle that generally sees political messaging bills over bipartisan infrastructure bills, moving a WRDA would be an exception. WRDA bills authorize important navigation, flood control and ecosystem restoration projects and studies at the Army Corps of Engineers. The Senate bill (S. 2848) also included several drinking water and clean water infrastructure programs.  

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New Report Highlights Limitations of National Levee Safety Initiative

August 17th, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a new report surveying the progress the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have made carrying out the National Levee Safety Program. The conclusion: the Agencies “have made little progress in implementing key national levee-safety-related activities required in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014.” The reason: lack of funding and higher priorities for other programs. Congress passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) in June 2014.  WRRDA requires the Corps and FEMA to manage national levee-safety-related activities, including establishing voluntary national levee-safety guidelines and providing financial and technical assistance to nonfederal stakeholders that take actions to promote levee safety. WRRDA authorizes $395 million to support levee safety initiatives over five years, yet not a single dollar has been appropriated for the program, nor has the program been prioritized in the President’s Budget Request in the last three fiscal year cycles. As flooding continues to threaten communities across the county, establishing a national levee safety program could provide much needed coordination, raise risk awareness, provide funding for inventory/inspection and lay the groundwork for a levee rehabilitation and repair program. As the proverbial saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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Talk to your Members of Congress About Infrastructure this Recess

July 21st, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

Members of Congress headed home (and to their respective national conventions last week) and won’t return to Washington until after Labor Day. This gives you, as an infrastructure advocate, the opportunity to talk with your federal lawmakers about our nation’s “D+” infrastructure and specific legislation that they can pass this year to help improve it. The first is the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The Senate version of this bill authorizes 25 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in 17 states. It would also authorize a much needed dam rehabilitation program. The House also has a version of this bill, which has a narrower scope. WRDA bills are most effective when they are passed every two years. Since the last was signed into law in the summer of 2014, it’s time for Congress to pass another bill. If you’re going to see one of your Senators or Representative and want to talk about WRDA, check out this more extensive backgrounder on the WRDA bills S. 2848 and H.R. 5303. With the passage of the FAST Act last December, many Members of Congress feel like they can ignore surface transportation for another 4.5 years. Help us remind them they can’t! Because the gas tax rate has not kept up with inflation, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) has been on the brink of insolvency many times in the past several years. Instead of addressing the HTF’s long-term solvency problem, Congress has relied on general funds transfers for the pas t eight years to prop up the fund, including most recently in the FAST Act. Congress needs to take action to fix the trust fund and ensure its long-term stability. Congressional leaders have been talking about doing a big push on tax reform next year. Remind your Members of Congress to include the HTF.
ASCE State Advoacy Captain Stephan Durham and Rep Jody Hice (GA-R)

ASCE State Advoacy Captain Stephan Durham and Rep Jody Hice (GA-R)

Another piece of legislation important to our nation’s infrastructure is the FAA reauthorization bill. The bill has been undergoing a series of short-term extensions as of late and while a 14.5-month reauthorization bill was just enacted, it did nothing to address our underinvestment in aviation infrastructure. As you travel this summer, there’s a good chance you saw an airport that could use some upgrades—as aviation received a “D” grade in the Report Card. Congress can help fix our airports by increasing funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which is a major source of cash for infrastructure upgrades. They should also increase or even eliminate the cap Passenger Facility Charges (PFC)—user fees levied by airports you pay when you book a flight. Right now PFCs are capped at $4.50 per trip segment, which hasn’t been modified since 2001. Raising or eliminating the cap would allow airports to invest in themselves to the benefit of air travelers. Ask your Senators and Representative to pass a long-term FAA bill that invests in America’s aviation future. To ensure our infrastructure has engineers to design, build, and maintain it in the future, talk to your Members of Congress about the Pre-College Engineering Education Act (H.R. 5679). This bill focuses on engineering part of STEM, and would introduce students to modern engineering tools such as computer-aided design while underscoring the value of professional licensure. If you’re interested of seizing summer recess to talk to your federal lawmakers, here’s a few ways to participate:
  • Visit your Senators’ and Representative’s websites to find out what public events they have scheduled
  • Call your Members of Congress’ District Office and ask to schedule a meeting
  • Use our online advocacy website to send emails to your Members of Congress on these and other infrastructure issues
  • Invite your Members of Congress to come to your group’s meeting (e.g. ASCE section event, PTA, Rotary Club)
  • And, if you’re lucky enough to have a more personal connection with a Member, take a few minutes to discuss infrastructure issues and why they matter at your neighborhood barbecue.
Election Day is not the only way to have your voice be heard. Take these next few weeks to share your thoughts with our nation’s lawmakers and tell them it’s time to invest in our infrastructure—because it will save the typical American family $3,400 a year.  

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Raising the Grade: How the 2016 Water Resources Development Act Can Improve America’s Ports and Inland Waterways

July 7th, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

In this second post of a three-part blog series, we’re looking at projects, policy changes and programs included in S. 2848, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016. Read about how WRDA can improve Dams and Levees. Now up, Ports and Inland Waterways Ports and Inland Waterways: Improving the Movement of Goods and Commerce The U.S. inland waterway system consists of over 12,000 miles of inland and intra-coastal waterways, with over 240 lock chambers, along with over 300 commercial harbors. Domestically, 5% of all tonnage moved in the U.S. and almost 4% of the total value of all freight transported over the entire U.S. transportation system is moved by water. In the last two years significant strides have been made to address the infrastructure challenges faced by ports and inland waterways. Funding and grants for multimodal freight in the FAST Act, updates to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) and increasing the diesel fuel fee to increase collections by the Inland Waterway Trust Fund have all been viewed as positive steps.  However, under current authorized funding levels, there is an estimated $11 billion in unmet needs. The Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (S.2848) extends several provisions included in WRDA14, makes important changes to maintenance and deepening programs, and authorizes several new studies and reports. One of the benefits of keeping WRDA bills on a two year cycle is that policy changes, including those in the prior cycle that did not work as intended can be tweaked. This is exactly the case for the HMTF.  WRDA14 set percentage goals for HMTF expenditures (e.g. in 2016  spend 69% of the receipts from 2015, in 2017 spend 71% of the receipts from 2016). A slowdown in the global economy decreased HMTF receipts (which is funded by a tax placed on the value of goods) and therefore the annual percentage goals, while higher than the year before, were still lower in actual dollars. The HMTF is still flush with cash that ports dutifully collected for maintenance and need to prepare for a post-Panamax world. WRDA16 provides a backstop for HMTF and ensures funds will continue to be allocated incrementally higher each year. Another major provision that will help U.S. ports accommodate post-Panamax ships is to increase the federally authorized depth of projects from 45 to 50 feet. The current cost-share depth for navigation channel deepening was established in WRDA 1986 at a 75 percent federal/25 percent non-federal split for depths to 45 feet, and an even 50 percent split for depths greater than 45 feet. WRDA 2014 revised the maintenance dredging cost-share depth to 50 feet from 45 feet. WRDA16 will follow WRDA14 by applying the same cost share for deepening projects. Taken together WRDA16 is a positive step for improving the nation’s ports and inland waterways. In our next blog post, we will explore how drinking water and wastewater are addressed in this year’s WRDA bills.

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Raising The Grade: How the 2016 Water Resources Bill Can Help Improve America’s Dams & Levees

June 22nd, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

In this three-part blog series, we’ll take a look at projects, policy changes and programs included in S. 2848, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016. First up, Dams and Levees Improving the Nation’s Aging Dams: the National Dam Rehabilitation Program The early days of dam building across the U.S. provided energy, flood control and reliable drinking water reservoirs. In the late 1970s and early 80s following several high profile dam failures, President Carter ordered a review of dam safety across the U.S. In 1986, following recommendations provided by the Carter-Federal Emergency Management Agency Task Force (FEMA), Congress established a National Dam Safety Program (NDSP) in the 1986 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). For the last 30 years, the NDSP has allowed civil engineers to survey and assess thousands of dams across the nation. We now know there are around 84,000 dams in the U.S. with an average age of 52 years old. The Report Card most recently gave dams a grade of “D.”  4,000 of those dams are deficient. That information is extremely helpful in informing communities of potential risk living within a dam’s potential inundation zone. It’s also helped emergency planners develop action plans in case of failure. However, a shortfall has existed in providing well-rounded dam safety: no federal program to rehabilitate, repair or remove deficient dams. The Water Resources Development Act of 2016 changes that. Sec. 3004 of WRDA 2016 for the first time will add an important rehabilitation program the NDSP. Under the program high hazard potential dams, would be eligible for grants provided by FEMA. Nonfederal sponsors must contribute at least 35% of the cost of the project and grants are capped at $7.5 million. Finally, for grants over $1 million qualification based selection (QBS) is required. If this program does in fact become signed into law, it will provide a significant step toward improving our nation’s dams. Strengthening Existing Levee Programs; Building Levees for the Future Over 100,000 miles of levees stretch across 50 states and the District of Columbia. Behind these thousands of miles of levees sit  trillions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of lives. Ensuring the safety of our nation’s levees should be a top priority governments and agencies responsible for these critical assets. The Report Card gives levees a “D-” grade. The Water Resources Development Act of 2014 made great strides to strengthen levee safety by establishing the National Levee Safety Initiative. The program will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to promote consistent safety standards, create levee safety guidelines and provide funding assistance to states for establishing participating levee safety programs. However the program, which was authorized at $395 million over five years hasn’t yet been funded. The new WRDA of 2016 take a more targeted approach by strengthening levees in state like California, Missouri and Kansas. It also required further review of potential weakness to levees found in coastal area’s threatened by sea level rise. The dam and levee programs authorized in WRDA 2014 and proposed in WRDA 2016 are important first steps to strengthening our nation’s flood control infrastructure, they must be followed with significant funding commitments by the President and Congressional appropriators.

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