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A House panel Wednesday advanced legislation by voice vote that would authorize improvements to the nation’s waterways and investments in flood control and coastal resiliency projects.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s 2022 Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 7776) would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct 72 new feasibility studies — a first step in the construction process that assesses projects’ risks and opportunities. It would also direct eight studies to modify existing projects, and authorize construction of 16 pending proposed projects.
The biennial legislation is popular with Democrats and Republicans, most of whom have Corps projects in their states and districts.
“WRDA 2022 meets the challenge of climate change by rebuilding and maintaining critical navigation jetties and breakwaters to dimensions necessary to address sea-level rise and extreme weather,” said Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). “From studying the impacts of coastal storms on inland flooding to addressing the future water supply needs of the arid West, this bill works to make communities more resilient.”
The committee considered nearly 70 amendments, adopting just a fraction of them, including a manager’s amendment from DeFazio. The panel also approved a measure from Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) that would ensure Army Corps of Engineers employees’ personnel records indicate whether they worked at Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and were exposed to harmful algal blooms, which are toxic and can cause health problems.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee advanced its WRDA legislation (S. 4137) unanimously earlier this month.
A staffer familiar with WRDA negotiations said the Senate would likely take up that chamber’s legislation this summer.
The House and Senate bills are similar, though not identical.
Both bills seek to provide more assistance and resources to tribal communities and underserved community harbors to complete important water projects. Unlike the Senate version, the House bill would not create an advisory committee to provide advice and recommendations to the Corps on water resources projects in those areas.
The Senate’s 2022 WRDA bill would direct 36 new feasibility studies by the Army Corps of Engineers and authorize or modify 21 projects for construction.
Transportation and Infrastructure ranking member Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and David Rouzer (N.C.), the top Republican on the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, both emphasized the importance of WRDA to local communities, many of which are still recovering from previous floods and storm damage.
“I’m pleased to see this bill directs the Corps in its continual pursuit to better manage our nation’s coastal mapping projects, which provide key information to States and local governments so they can better respond to these significant weather events,” Rouzer said.
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