Sens. Biden and Carper Announce That Water Resources Bill Supports Four Delaware Projects

Senate Bill Authorizes Delaware Projects, Reforms How Army Corps of Engineers Operates

Four projects important to Delaware are contained in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007 that passed the Senate this week, authorizing a host of navigation, flood control and environmental restoration projects nationwide.

Sens. Joe Biden and Tom Carper (both D-Del.) championed this legislation, which authorizes projects and programs for the Army Corp’s Civil Works Program, which includes flood damage reduction, navigation, ecosystem restoration, recreation, hydroelectric power, water supply, aquatic plant control, and hurricane and storm protection.

The legislation also contains a Corps reform proposal that would address the mistakes made in the design and construction of the New Orleans levees. The provision would require the creation of an independent panel to analyze the feasibility and quality of water projects expected to cost more than $40 million. This panel would be independent from the Corps, and consist of experts in engineering, hydrology, biology and economics.

This important section of the bill, commonly considered "Corps reform," contains the same improvements approved by the Senate last July, but that legislation never received final congressional approval late last year.

"The structural failure of the levees protecting New Orleans highlighted the need to improve how we build and maintain our flood control infrastructure and so I hope, with the passage of this bill, we can move forward on long overdue improvements," said Sen. Biden. "I am pleased that these important Delaware projects were included, but I regret that the Senate did not also require that the Corps of Engineers take into account the clear threat of global warming when it designs and executes its projects. This is critically important for Delaware because with our many beach replenishment projects and wetlands, we are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and stronger storms."

"This bill requires the Corps to maintain the St. Georges Bridge, which is so important to maintain the flow of traffic from all the new development south of the Canal," said Sen, Carper. "After six years of failing to pass this important legislation, I am pleased both the House and the Senate have now passed bills. We can finally address needed flood control, environmental restoration and the navigation needs in Delaware and across the country."

This 2007 version was approved in March by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on which Sen. Carper serves. In the past 20 years, since the landmark Water Resources Development Act of 1986, the intent of the Congress was to reauthorize this legislation every two years, but the last WRDA bill was enacted seven years ago.

The key Delaware, Corps projects include:

• Requires the Corps to take ownership of the SR1 Bridge and maintain the St. George’s Bridge: This section of the bill clarifies that the Corps is to assume ownership of the State Route 1 replacement bridge and continue to operate and maintain the existing St. Georges Bridge unless otherwise directed by Congress.

• Indian River Inlet Scour Holes: This project should be addressed quickly to stabilize two scour holes threatening the Indian River Inlet and Bay. The first one is an 80-foot hole within 100 feet of a bulkhead at the U.S. Coast Guard facility. The second hole is about 30-feet, and has formed along a stone revetment constructed by the Corps adjacent to the Coast Guard bulkhead. The revetment is currently protecting several structures recently constructed by the State of Delaware, and the Coast Guard could be impacted in as little as one year.

• Delmarva Conservation Corridor: Designed to improve the economic viability of agriculture and the environmental health of Delaware’s watersheds, this program consists of two core components: 1) Establishing an agricultural operations and conservation "advocate’s office" to improve marketing and participation for existing and new conservation programs; and 2) develop and implement new conservation programs and improve existing programs to better fit the needs of Delaware’s unique economic and environmental needs.

• Delaware River Basin Commission: This provision reasserts the Corps’ responsibility to participate as a member of the Delaware River Basin and to contribute to its function.