Before adjourning for the fall recess, the House and Senate passed their respective Water Resources Development Acts (WRDA). The WRDA became a major player in the continuing resolution (CR) negotiations, as it includes funding for Flint, Michigan. While both versions concern the handling of water resources and give attention to the crisis in Flint, there are key differences in the bills.
A Brief History
Heard of the WRDA before? That’s likely because there have been ten of them passed, with the first dating back to 1974. The most recent WRDA was passed in 2007. They are typically technical bills that outline the uses, security, and infrastructure of water resources, and thus don’t receive much media attention. However, as the CR negotiations hung partially funding for Flint, the WRDA became a focal point – with bipartisan compromises helping to prevent a government shutdown.
Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (H.R. 5303)
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Shuster [R, PA-9]
The House version passed 399-25, thanks to the bipartisan efforts of Speaker Paul Ryan [R, WI-1] and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-12].
The Kildee amendment, which authorizes $170 million in funding for Flint, Michigan
State assistance through water conservation measures in drought emergencies and assistance in flood damage reduction plans
Revision of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ water resources development projects, so that their authority is expanded to railroad carriers and made permanent for public utilities and natural gas companies
Authorization of navigation, flood risk management, hurricane damage, ecosystem restoration, and river shoreline projects
Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (S. 2848)
Sponsor: Sen. Jim Inhofe [R, OK]
The Senate version passed 95-3. The $10 billion water projects bill is less infrastructure-focused.
$220 million in direct funding for areas with drinking water contamination, such as Flint, Michigan
Investment in ports and inland waterways to improve commerce
Regional support for flood protection and droughts
When Congress reconvenes, the House and Senate will go to conference. The two chambers will send representatives to negotiate the differences between the two bills, and they must reach an agreement before the Congressional session ends in order to send the legislation to President Obama.