As Florence Approaches, Barrasso and Carper Highlight Provisions in Major Water Infrastructure Bill to Help Communities Better Prepare and Recover from Extreme Weather Events

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, co-authored by U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), the Chairman and Ranking Member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, and agreed upon this week by congressional negotiators, includes key provisions that will strengthen coastal readiness and responsiveness to severe storms. The first major infrastructure bill of the 115th Congress would help refortify beaches and shorelines, strengthen flood control capabilities and establish new strategies to protect drinking water systems after major weather events.

“America’s Water Infrastructure Act will help protect communities from devastating storms and natural disasters,” said Barrasso. “The bipartisan bill includes programs to improve levees and dams and to hold back excess flood waters. It allows the Army Corps of Engineers to more effectively assist communities recovering from major storms. This landmark legislation helps fulfill the president’s promise of rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure.”

“Extreme weather events are becoming more powerful, and much of the infrastructure on American coasts is either too vulnerable to these storms or unable to sufficiently protect communities,” said Senator Carper. “This is placing families, homes, businesses and livelihoods in jeopardy. As Americans fight through yet another active hurricane season, this essential bill will help bolster communities and ecosystems in Delaware, and across our country, from the worst impacts of these storms. It will also allow communities to recover more quickly when disaster does strike and rebuild in a manner more resilient to future storms. Perhaps most notably, especially in light of the avoidable devastation and tragedy we saw in the wake of Hurricanes Maria and Harvey, this bill invests $100 million to repair drinking water systems damaged by storms and starts new programs that protect systems from extreme weather events.”

Specifically, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018:

  • Authorizes $75 million in appropriations for a new beach nourishment and shoreline protection pilot program;
  • Allows for the Army Corps to award contracts for multiple damage reduction projects rather than on a project-by-project basis – improving efficiency of storm damage repair projects;
  • Boosts flood control efforts by reauthorizing levee safety and dam safety programs through 2023;
  • Safeguards more property by easing Army Corps’ ability to use sediment for projects that protect structures from storm damage;
  • Increases durability of protective infrastructure by mandating the rebuilding of storm protection projects damaged by extreme weather;
  • Authorizes a new $100 million program to assist in the repair of storm-damaged drinking water systems and to protect such systems from future storms;
  • Requires the Army Corps to consider the use of natural infrastructure alternatives – like the dune systems protecting Rehoboth and Bethany Beach – when studying projects to address flood and storm damage reduction;
  • Establishes multiple water resiliency programs to help Delaware communities invest in protecting their drinking water infrastructure from extreme weather events and sea level rise; and
  • Provides state and local leaders an increased role in prioritizing Army Corps projects.

Read the text of America’s Water Infrastructure Act here.

Background Information:

Carper and Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), together with EPW Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced S. 2800, America’s Water Infrastructure Act on May 8 ,2018. On May 22, 2018, the legislation unanimously passed the EPW committee by a vote of 21 to 0.