Last month, as part of the Omnibus Legislation, the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA) was passed by Congress and signed by the President. This act is critically important in that it authorizes the key civil works missions of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). It overwhelmingly passed both the U.S. Senate and House.
Congress generally passes these acts biannually and successfully enacted three consecutive WRDAs in 2014, 2016 and 2018. WRDA legislation has a direct impact on our nation’s ports, harbors and waterways. Additionally, WRDA authorizes flood damage reduction and ecosystem restoration projects.
I spent some time over the past few days going through the WRDA Act; it has many items of interest for dam safety, hydropower and water resource engineers.
Title I (General Provisions) unlocks the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), and amends the authority for the Corps to assume operation and maintenance responsibilities for projects carried out by non-Federal interests to include navigation projects. Section 109 of this title changes the cost share for construction, emphasizes the need for the Corps to provide technical assistance for greater resiliency planning, and numerous other resiliency provisions. My water resource team is especially interested in Section 146, which authorizes the Corps to accept funds from a non-Federal entity to evaluate potential operational changes at Corps projects to facilitate production of non-Federal hydropower. Also of interest are sections that address affordability concerns for communities by authorizing the Corps to support economically disadvantaged communities through flooding and storm damage reduction and resiliency planning.
Title II (Studies and Reports) authorizes 27 feasibility studies for water resources development projects and directs the Corps to expedite the completion of 65 feasibility studies, as well as two post-authorization change reports, six watershed studies, one disposition study, two reallocation reports and one economic report. Of particular interest to my team is the Comprehensive Study of the Sacramento River, Yolo Bypass; Lower and Upper Missouri Comprehensive Flood Protection; Study on Water Supply and Water Conservation at Water Resources Development Projects; and the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study.
Title III (Deauthorizations and Modifications) deauthorizes $10 billion in inactive water resources development projects and modifies the provisions of numerous other projects.
Title IV (Authorizations) contains authorization the construction of 46 water resources projects and eight project modifications for previously authorized projects. Of particular interest to me are the Tulsa and West-Tulsa Levee System in my own hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Delta Islands and Levees Ecosystem Restoration and Yuba River Ecosystem Restoration in California; and Grand River Ecosystem Restoration in Iowa and Missouri.
Finally, Title V (Other Matters) contains a variety of miscellaneous provisions including invasive species guidance.
Overall, spending a few hours reviewing the WRDA Act of 2020 is well worth the effort for dam or water resources professionals interested in identifying future opportunities.