House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill

September 11, 2018

US House of Representative approved by voice vote the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (AWIA), S. 3021, which included provisions promoting hydropower deployment.

The hydropower provisions included language:

  • Creating a quicker, more efficient licensing process for proposed projects at existing non-powered dams and for closed-loop pumped storage;
  • Shortening the timeline for projects utilizing existing conduits;
  • Providing regulatory incentives for investments at existing hydropower facilities; and
  • Improvements to the preliminary permits and start construction timelines at FERC.

Senate and House lawmakers on Monday night reached an agreement on a bipartisan water infrastructure bill that will reauthorize billions of dollars in federal spending on ports, harbors, and waterways as well as deauthorize inefficient spending on water projects.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and committee ranking member Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), along with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), on Monday announced agreement on America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.

The water infrastructure bill is one of three appropriations bills that lawmakers plan to pass this week in order to help avert or scale back a government shutdown in October.

Barrasso in a press release encouraged Congress to pass the bipartisan legislation and send it to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

The water infrastructure bill requires re-authorization every two years.

“I’m glad members of both the Senate and House were able to find areas of agreement and reach a compromise on a major water infrastructure bill that … invests in critical infrastructure like our country’s ports and waterways, and expands our investments in drinking water for the first time in more than two decades,” Carper said in a statement.

The 2018 version of the bill authorizes $4.4 million in funds for a safe drinking water program, Drinking Water State Revolving funds, which was last authorized 22 years ago.

The bill would also help reduce flooding risks for rural, western and coastal communities, according to the press release, an issue made more pressing in light of Hurricane Florence, the impending Category 4 hurricane set to hit the East Coast on Thursday or Friday.

“The bill will help coastal communities prepare for the growing risks of climate change and help communities across America invest in local water infrastructure needs,” Carper said.

The bill calls seeks to address water infrastructure needs in Native American tribal communities with a drinking water pilot program in certain regions.

The agreed-upon bill also includes billions of dollars in deauthorizations towards the aim of being “fiscally responsible,” the press release states.

“This bipartisan legislation will authorize water infrastructure projects developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will strengthen our coastal communities, help keep us competitive in the world economy, and restore our coastal environment,” DeFazio said. “These critical water infrastructure projects will improve our Nation’s ports, harbors, and waterways, and create and sustain thousands of good-paying American jobs.”

- The Hill | By Emily Birnbaum