Senate unveils $9B waterways bill with aid for Flint

The Senate unveiled a $9.4 billion waterways bill to boost U.S. ports, waterways and clean water infrastructure on Tuesday that also provides emergency assistance to address the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., where water from the Flint River corroded the city’s pipes, contaminating the water supply with lead.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will mark up the measure on Thursday.

{mosads}The legislation identifies $4.5 billion worth of water infrastructure projects — significantly less than the $12.3 billion authorized in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2014. It authorizes $4.9 billion for drinking water and clean water infrastructure over five years.

“WRDA will also address our nation’s aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure by supporting federal programs that encourage local and private investment, and reform existing authorities to allow states to partner with the federal government when necessary to help disadvantaged or high-risk communities address their water resource needs,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the committee, in a statement.

The waterways bill would authorize 25 new Army Corps projects in 17 states, including projects to restore the Florida Everglades, revitalize the Los Angeles River, improve ports in Charleston, S.C., and provide flood and hurricane protection in Louisiana.

Although the legislation authorizes funding for the projects, the money needs to be doled out by appropriators.

The measure would require the corps to update its reservoir operations, prioritize ecosystem restoration projects that address public health threats and streamline the approval process for modifying existing projects.

Also tucked into the waterways bill is $220 million in direct emergency assistance for Flint and other communities facing a drinking water contamination crisis.

“What happened in Flint has shown us how vulnerable some of our water systems are, and this bill is a perfect vehicle to upgrade our water infrastructure,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking member.

The bill would provide additional investments in the nation’s aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure by modernizing State Revolving Loan Fund programs, reauthorizing funding to control sewer overflows and providing assistance to replace lead service lines.

The measure also would assist poor and disadvantaged communities in meeting public health standards, as well as promote innovative technologies to address drought and other critical water resource needs.

Tags Barbara Boxer Jim Inhofe

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