October 24, 2014
RE: House Passes Water Resources Reform and Development Bill
Last night the House passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Bill (H.R. 3080) by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 417-3. All New Jersey Congressmen voted in favor of this bipartisan bill, which advances many of the flood protection, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects that are important to municipalities and to our national and local economies. Three amendments, which would be beneficial to local government, and which were advocated by the National League of Cities (NLC) also passed.
Those amendments (as numbered by the Clerk of the House) were:
#1 – Establishes a multiagency effort to slow the spread of Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River basins and tributaries by providing technical assistance, coordination, best practices, and support to State and local governments in carrying out such activities. – PASSED BY UNANIMOUS CONSENT
#18 – Directs the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to calculate the national benefits of proposed flood protection projects, including benefits from a reduction in national and regional economic losses. – PASSED 237-183
#44 – Provides that as part of a study for flood and storm damage reduction related to natural disasters, the Corps shall consult with key stakeholders, including State, county, and city governments, and, where applicable, State and local water districts. - PASSED BY UNANIMOUS CONSENT
Among a number of reforms, the bill, which was co-sponsored by New Jersey Congressman Frank LoBiondo, revises requirements for feasibility studies under the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986 to: (1) limit the duration of any feasibility study to 3 years; (2) limit the cost of any such study to $3 million; and (3) require personnel of the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct concurrent reviews of feasibility studies (currently, sequential reviews are permitted). It also requires the Secretary of the Army (Secretary), not later than 90 days after the initiation of a feasibility study, to initiate federally-mandated reviews, including environmental reviews. It directs the Secretary to: (1) carry out a locally preferred plan that provides a higher level of flood protection and is funded by non-federal interests; (2) evaluate alternatives to ensure safety of affected communities and the resiliency of water resources development projects to future flooding and storm events; and (3) establish procedures for providing the public and governmental entities, including Indian tribes, with timely information regarding expected water levels and preparedness actions. It also amends the WRDA of 1974 to authorize the Secretary to provide technical assistance to states to encourage state programs for levee safety; and it requires the Secretary to establish federal guidelines relating to levee safety.
A very similar bill (S.601) had passed the U.S. Senate (83-14) back in May. A Conference Committee will soon be convened to iron out the few remaining differences. We will keep you posted on their work.
After the contentious debates of the last few weeks, we are encouraged by the overwhelming and bipartisan support for this bill. We hope this bill will be a model for other measures that will be important to cities and towns in the coming months. If you have any questions, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.