Congress Holds Hearing on Water Infrastructure

Last week, a U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment kicked off the second session of the 116th Congress with a hearing on proposals for the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020. WRDA is a significant legislative package that sets federal water resources infrastructure policy and provides federal approval for civil works projects in our nation’s waterways and harbors. WRDA traditionally runs on a two-year reauthorization schedule and will be due for authorization in 2020.

In her opening statement, Subcommittee Chairwoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA) said the Committee has been successful in passing a new WRDA bill every two years and she remains committed to working in a bipartisan fashion for all future WRDA authorizations. Subcommittee Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-AR) conveyed the cruciality of USACE work for constructing and reinforcing infrastructure projects that are vital for outdoor recreation.

During the hearing, subcommittee members heard testimony from R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army Civil Works, and Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, USACE Chief of Engineers and Commanding General on their priorities for WRDA 2020 – which includes allowing more flexibility to non-federal parties to execute local infrastructure projects on their own, prioritization of pending projects with the most economic and public safety benefits, and streamlining the permission process to expedite project completion timelines.

While WRDA is largely geared towards commercial activity and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) flood control efforts, NMMA is working with key elected officials to include language in the bill that would ensure recreation’s economic impact is considered when determining which projects to prioritize.

Properly dredged federal channels are essential to providing critical access points for marinas and coastal communities where businesses depend on marine recreation-based economic activity. However, due to antiquated procedures, recreation is not currently accounted for as an economic benefit when USACE and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) determine project prioritization, which NMMA is working to address in this legislation.

As Congress continues debating WRDA, NMMA is calling on policymakers to reform water resources legislation processes and policy in a way that recognizes and energizes outdoor recreation – an industry recognized by the Bureau of Economic Analysis as a significant economic driver, growing faster than the overall U.S. economy.

For more information, please contact NMMA senior vice president of government and legal affairs, Nicole Vasilaros at nvasilaros@nmma.org or NMMA director of federal government relations, Callie Hoyt at choyt@nmma.org.