President Obama Signs the Water Resources Reform and Development Act

On June 11, 2014, President Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). Historically, water resources legislation has been enacted every two years to provide policy direction to the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Administration. The WRRDA is the first water resources bill that has been signed since 2007, however.

The WRRDA authorizes 34 federal, state, and local projects aimed at maintaining the nation’s ports, levees, dams, and harbors. For example, the WRRDA authorizes projects to deepen the Boston Harbor and the Port of Savannah, to restore the Everglades, and to strengthen levees in the Sacramento region. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the total cost to implement these projects will be $12.3 billion between 2014 and 2025. This cost will be offset by $18 billion in project deauthorizations contained in the WRRDA.

Some key components of the WRRDA:

  • Authorizes approximately $45 million for flood risk management measures for the Orestimba Creek in the San Joaquin River Basin to protect the City of Newman.
  • Authorizes approximately $689 million for flood risk management measures in the Sutter River Basin.
  • Allows local communities, which may have state or local funding sources, to carry out work in advance of the Corps and receive a credit for this work.
  • Requires the Corps to set firm deadlines for preparing its studies.
  • Expedites project permitting and approvals by reducing the number of studies to be performed by the Corps.
  • Requires the Corps to allow for regional variances regarding vegetation patterns and characteristics on levees, among other variances, with feedback from state, regional, and local entities.
  • Authorizes financial assistance through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014 to carry out pilot projects by public or private entities for flood damage reduction, hurricane and storm damage reduction, environmental restoration, coastal or inland harbor navigation improvement, or inland and intracoastal waterways navigation improvement.
  • Deauthorizes $12 billion for old, inactive port projects.
  • Reforms and preserves the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which is used to fund the construction and rehabilitation of the nation’s inland waterways system.

In addition to the aforementioned projects, the WRRDA authorizes construction activities to strengthen 24 miles of levees protecting over 100,000 residents and $7 billion in property in the Natomas area, north of downtown Sacramento. Federal maps show that a levee breach could put homes and businesses in the area under 20 feet of water. In 2012, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency finished upgrading 18 miles of Natomas levees. The WRRDA authorizes the Corps to complete upgrades to the remaining 24 miles of levees, which had been stalled because of the lack of federal authorization.

Read the full text of the WRRDA here.