07.28.22

Reed & Whitehouse Cheer Senate Passage of Bipartisan Water Resources Bill

WRDA reauthorization would invest in our nation’s ports and waterways and strengthen coastal resiliency in the Ocean State

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse applauded the passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022, which authorizes improvements to our nation’s harbors and waterways, invests in coastal resiliency efforts, and supports U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects nationwide.  The Senate cleared the bill by a vote of 92 to 2.  Reed and Whitehouse secured several key provisions benefitting Rhode Island in the comprehensive bill, which now heads to conference with the House version of the bill.

“From protecting against flooding and coastal storms to maintaining our ports and shipping channels, the Army Corps plays an important role in protecting communities and keeping our economy running.  This bill will help the federal government make smart investments to modernize our water infrastructure, protect the environment, and support local resiliency projects and initiatives.  I urge the House and Senate negotiators to complete work on this bipartisan bill as quickly as possible,” said Senator Reed, who serves on the Appropriations Committee.

“Today’s bipartisan passage of WRDA has some big wins for Rhode Island.  U.S. Army Corps investments can go a long way toward protecting coastal economies from climate change, but, for years, the Corps has been unable to explain why its funding for coastal projects has been significantly lower than for inland projects.  I was glad to see our provision mandating a report on this discrepancy included in the bill, alongside a host of other provisions that will strengthen the environment and boost the economy of our Ocean State,” said Whitehouse, who helped draft the bill as a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. 

Senators Reed and Whitehouse secured inclusion of a provision that would improve fish passage and habitat restoration on the Lower Blackstone River.  Since the 1800s, the Blackstone has been closed off to shad, herring, Atlantic salmon, and other fish that spend most of their lives in the sea but must migrate to fresh water to spawn.  The return of these species would bring substantial ecological and economic benefits for the River.

Reed and Whitehouse also included a provision mandating a report from the Government Accountability Office on the disparity between coastal and inland U.S. Army Corps projects.  For years, Whitehouse has called out the disproportionate gap in funding, noting in a 2019 letter that the Corps has spent between 19 and 120 times more on inland versus coastal funding.  In light of the sea level rise caused by climate change, the senators’ provision would call attention to the funding gap that impedes coastal resiliency efforts in the Ocean State.  

The bill also contains a new Reed-Whitehouse supported provision that would amend the National Dam Safety Program Act to create a nationwide inventory of low-head dams, which can be a safety hazard for kayakers and swimmers.

The Water Resources Development Act of 2022 also:

  • Facilitates the timely completion of much-needed improvements to the country’s inland waterways system by reducing the strain on the Inland Waterways Trust Fund;
  • Addresses the harbor deepening and maintenance needs of commercially significant ports, maintaining their competitiveness and supporting global supply chains;
  • Authorizes new avenues for the provision of assistance to underserved community harbors that are critical to local and regional economies;
  • Enables critical investments in the protection and restoration of shorelines and riverbanks from erosion and other damaging forces;
  • Authorizes the Corps to modify shore protection projects during the performance of emergency restoration activities to increase resiliency;
  • Streamlines the implementation of shoreline protection and restoration projects to aid communities most vulnerable to coastal storms;
  • Enables communities to partner with the Corps to develop water resources projects that directly address risks of extreme weather;
  • Supports the ability of states and localities to plan for, and respond to, water resources challenges;
  • Authorizes the Corps to do significant work to mitigate the impact of repetitive drought conditions and conserve water supplies; and
  • Authorizes the Corps to work on historic lighthouses under an existing continuing authorities program.

Congress first enacted the Water Resources Development Act in 1974 to establish and improve water-related programs and authorize the Army Corps to assist with flood protection, ecosystem restoration, and navigation to facilitate the flow of commerce in U.S. waterways.  By law, the statute must be periodically renewed by Congress.

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Press Contact

Chip Unruh (Reed), (202) 224-4642

Meaghan McCabe (Whitehouse), (401) 453-5294