November 8, 2007

Congress Overrides Bush Veto, Enacts New Support for Estuary Habitat Restoration

Reed, Whitehouse Praise Legislation to Help Protect Rhode Island's Waterways

Washington, D.C. – Congress today overrode President Bush’s veto of legislation championed by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to support the restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems in Rhode Island and across the country. Today marks the first time Congress has overridden a veto by this President.

The Estuary Restoration Act (ERA) will now become law as part of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), a bipartisan measure originally passed in September. The Water Resources Development Act authorizes nearly $21 billion for essential flood control, navigation, and ecosystem restoration projects.

A member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Whitehouse worked with Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to ensure that the estuaries measure would be included in WRDA. Once the Senate passed the original legislation, Reed and Whitehouse also wrote to Boxer in early July to stress that the House-Senate conference committee’s report on the final bill should preserve the estuary restoration program.

President Bush vetoed the Water Resources Development Act last week, claiming it “lacks fiscal discipline.”
“President Bush wants hundreds of billions more for his misguided war in Iraq – but vetoes legislation providing just a fraction of that to help restore estuarine and coastal ecosystems in Rhode Island and many other states,” Whitehouse said. “Congress is fighting for Americans’ real priorities, and today, our environment and our communities won. I’m proud that Congress has made this critical investment, and pleased to have worked with my senior senator, Jack Reed, to accomplish this.”

“I am pleased that Congress, on a bipartisan basis, was able to override the President’s veto,” said Reed. “I hope this bipartisan spirit can continue so that Congress can work together to get things done for the American people. We’ll need this same spirit to overcome the President’s misguided vetoes of the children’s health bill and other veto threats on other important domestic issues.”

Estuaries like Narragansett Bay are essential to the health of coastal environments and economies, serving as natural barriers and helping insulate fragile ecosystems and coasts from flood waters. The serious threats of climate change and potential sea level rise underscore the importance of restoring estuarine habitats, which can make coastlines more resilient to storm surges. Estuary restoration benefits local economies, supporting recreational activities and preserving unique coastal cultures. At least 75 percent of commercially and recreationally valuable fish species spend part of their lives in estuaries and coastal wetlands.

The ERA authorizes $2.5 million annually in dedicated funding for restoration projects whose federal funding share is less than $1 million. Four agencies, led by the Army Corps of Engineers, constitute the federal Estuary Restoration Interagency Council: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Resources Conservation Service. Past projects undertaken by the Interagency Council include restoration of salt marshes, mudflats, wetlands, and other important coastal ecologies.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921