Water Resources (10-12-06)
Over the past two years, the U.S. has experienced drier than average
atmospheric conditions. According to a statement
released by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA), 48 percent of the contiguous
U.S. experienced moderate to extreme drought conditions in August
of 2002. These dry conditions have led to low municipal, industrial,
commercial, and agricultural water supplies. The administration and
Congress recognize the importance of an adequate water supply to the
economy and public health. They are considering steps to mitigate
the current problem and to prepare for future water demands.
The House and the Senate are out of time to reconcile
their differences on two bills which would re-authorize the Water
Resources Act. The Senate version, S.728
costs $15 billion, while the House version, H.R.
2864 costs $12 billion. Besides the differences in costs, enactment
of the Water Resources Development Act has been complicated by proposed
changes to Army Corps of Engineers practices and policies. H.R.
2864 is seen by some as a first step toward increasing environmental
considerations in program planning and stricter mitigation requirements.
728 includes some similar provisions, it also takes steps in the
opposite direction by supporting changes in program planning that
are aimed at shortening length, increasing predictability and avoiding
cost increases. Congressional experts also hinted that lawmakers were
uneasy about passing a pork-laden bill before the mid-term elections.
Both bills await further discussion during the lame-duck session in
On July 14, 2005, the House voted 406-14 in favor of
the $10 billion Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) to authorize
over 600 Army Corps of Engineers' navigation, flood control and environmental
restoration projects. After the vote was announced, the White House
issued a statement
voicing "strong concerns that in its current form H.R.
2864 does not include much-needed policy and program reforms and
has a significant overall cost." The administration specifically
wanted to address three problems in need of reform, including the
Corp's backlog of unfinished construction projects, outdated federal
guidelines for water resource projects, and an over allocation of
resources that results from the federal government contributing additional
funds to new or existing projects.
Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Jeff Flake
(R-AZ) sponsored an amendment to require evaluation of the $1.8 billion
Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers lock construction project. The
amendment would terminate the project if barge traffic failed to reach
a threshold projected by the Army Corps of Engineers. Controversy
over this project first erupted in 2000 when whistleblower reports
suggested that the Corps had manipulated budget predictions. Supporters
of the project believe the new locks are necessary for global competition
in shipping and farming. The amendment failed by a vote of 105-315.
Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) offered an amendment to require annual
reports on the progress of the Upper Mississippi River projects. This
amendment passed by a voice vote.
Overall, the House bill (H.R.
2864) is similar to a 2003 version except that this year's bill
includes additional authorizations for the Upper Mississippi lock
construction project and $1.6 billion for ecosystem restoration projects
in the Florida everglades and along coastal Louisiana. The Bush administration
has expressed support for both projects.
The Senate has yet to schedule floor debate for their $17 billion
version of WRDA. (7/15/05)
On June 16, 2005 the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee
on Water Resources and Environment unanimously passed H.R.
2864, a $10 billion Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The
bipartisan bill authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct
hundreds of navigation improvements, severe weather mitigation projects,
and flood protection and environmental restoration throughout the
country. The bill is similar to the WRDA that was introduced and then
stalled in the 108th Congress. For the fourth consecutive year, controversy
over how to reform Corps operations and effectively mitigate environmental
damage threatens to stall the newest bill in the House and the Senate.
Although nearly identical to the WRDA passed by the
House in 2003, the current legislation is different from past versions
because it would authorize new funds for 30 projects, including the
- $2 billion to restore coastal wetlands in Louisiana over the
- $5 billion in funding for the authorization of lock expansions
and ecosystem restoration on the Upper Mississippi River
- $1.2 billion for the Indian River Lagoon-South project for wetlands
and estuarine restoration, a part of the larger more than 30-year
Florida Everglades restoration effort
In addition to authorizing funds for these projects, the bill would
also include provisions for improving the planning and project development
process of the Corps and an independent peer review for large and
At the subcommittee mark-up, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson
(D-TX) stated that, "this bill addresses what the Congress failed
to do for the past five years. As in the past, projects included in
this bill were included not on the basis of whether they were Democratic
or Republican projects, but on their individual merit and benefits
to public safety." But Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) revealed
doubts about the bill's language on corps reform and the lock expansion
planned for the Upper Mississippi River. Blumenauer might introduce
an amendment on the floor of the House that would eliminate the lock
expansion project from the bill.
The Senate version of this bill, S.
728, would provide $2.48 billion in funding for 7 new locks on
the Mississippi River and $1.58 billion for ecosystem restoration.
Major amendments to both bills are expected during floor debates later
this summer. (6/21/05)
A subcommittee of the White House Office of Science and Technology
Policy (OSTP) has publicly released its report on "Science
and Technology to Support Fresh Water Availability in the United States".
The report attempts to answer the question, "Does the United
States have enough water?" According to subcommittee chair and
USGS Assistant Director for Water Bob Hirsch, the short answer is
"We don't know." Hirsch describes the report as an examination
of "what is known about our nation's fresh water supply, what
we don't know about it, and the ramifications of our current state
of knowledge. It also describes high-priority science and technology
efforts needed to provide adequate information for decision makers
and water managers." White House Science Advisor John H. Marburger
III said the report "provides a clear statement of need for coordinated
science and technology efforts to understand the supply, human demand,
and environmental requirements for fresh water in the United States."
At the request of OSTP, as a follow-up to the White House report,
the CENR Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality is now developing
a 10 year strategic plan for Federal science and technology research
and development to support freshwater availability and quality. The
committee will be holding town hall type meetings across the country.
To stay informed of opportunities to comment, please email email@example.com
with the subject, "add to swaq review list". (6/3/05)
On April 13, members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
approved the Water Resources Development Act of 2005 (S.
728), introduced by Kit Bond (R-MO). The bill, which was last
renewed in 2000, would authorize $7 billion "for the Secretary
of the Army to construct various projects for improvements to rivers
and harbors of the United States."
Senators Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), and Barack
Obama (D-IL), all withdrew their amendments with the intention of
reintroducing them in later debate on the Senate floor. At the mark-up,
the committee voted down an amendment by James Jeffords (I-VT) and
Max Baucus (D-MT), who proposed a mandatory peer review process within
the Army Corps of Engineers for proposed projects. Jeffords told Bond,
"a WRDA bill is long overdue and I hope we can get it enacted
this year; however, I am disappointed that we were unable to reach
agreement on three corps reform provisions," which he said Bond
had unfairly put "off-limits," according to a story in Environment
and Energy Daily. Representative John Duncan (R-TN), Chairman of the
House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, is currently drafting
a House version of the bill. (4/14/05)
Since 1974, the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) has been a
project authorization bill for the Army Corps of Engineers. The bill
authorizes funds but does not appropriate them. The Corps authorized
projects include water navigation, flood control, shoreline protection,
hydropower, dam safety, water supply, recreation, environmental restoration
and protection, and disaster response and recovery. The two most recent
WRDA bills were passed during the 106th Congress: the WRDA of 1999,
authorized funds near $6.1 billion and the WRDA of 2000, S.2796,
authorized funds near $5 billion. During the 107th Congress, no WRDA
bills were passed due to the accusations that the Corps has been manipulating
cost-benefit studies to justify projects (E&E News).
In December of 2001, Rep. John Linder (R-GA) introduced the Twenty-First
Century Water Policy Commission Establishment Act, H.R.3561.
The bill would establish a commission that would develop a comprehensive
water policy for the next fifty years. On May 22, 2002, the House
Committee on Resources Subcommittee
on Water and Power held a hearing on H.R. 3561. The hearing's
complete written testimonies can be found on the committee's
website. During his testimony, Linder asked the committee to take
action and not wait for a national water scarcity crisis to occur.
He said, "Our water resources will be utilized to their fullest
capacity in the coming decades, and current water supplies will prove
inadequate." Some witnesses were skeptical of the bill because
the proposed panel would be composed of members from governmental
agencies. Others were worried that the commission's recommendations
would not add any new information to the current pool of knowledge
on water resources. After the hearing the bill had no further action.
In January 2003, Rep. John Linder (R-GA) reintroduced the Twenty-First
Century Water Commission Act, H.R.
135. The bill, modeled after the 1968 National Water Commission
Act, would have instituted a seven-member commission to provide recommendations
for a national comprehensive water strategy for the next 50 years.
The commission's recommendations would be based on their assessments
of water management plans and future water supply and demand with
the aim of protecting the environment and the economy. The bill was
referred to the House Committees on Resources
and Infrastructure. The bill received favorable attention in subsequent
hearings and was passed in the House. It was sent to the Senate Committee
on Environment and Public Works where it has stayed ever since.
In May 2003, the Department of the Interior released "Water
2025: Preventing Crises and Conflict in the West", which calls
for concentrating existing federal financial and technical resources
in key western watersheds and in critical research and development,
such as water conservation and desalinization that will help to predict,
prevent, and alleviate water supply conflicts." More information
on Water 2025 can be found on http://www.doi.gov/water2025/.
In May 2004, the National
Water Quality Assessment Program presented findings of several
regional water quality assessments carried out between 1991 and 2001.
NAWQA recently released the final 15 of its 51 comprehensive reports,
which together indicate that "the nation's waters generally are
suitable for irrigation, drinking-water supply, and other home and
recreational uses . . . [although] in areas of significant agricultural
and urban development the quality of our nation's water resources
has been degraded by contaminants." The assessments found that
contaminants and their effects are controlled by a complex set of
both human and naturally induced factors such as land use, chemical
use, urbanization, geology, and hydrology.
For additional information on water policy issues in the 109th Congress,
see AGI's Clean
Water Issues, Wetlands
and Coastal Resources Policy, and Great
Lakes and Other Watersheds pages.
Sources: THOMAS, US House of Representatives, US Senate, US Army
Corps of Engineers, E&E News, National Library for the Environment,
Congressional Research Service Report, USGS Circular 1265.
Contributed by Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs, David
R. Millar 2004 AGI/AAPG Fall Semester Intern, Katie Ackerly 2005 AGI/AAPG
Spring Semester Intern, Amanda Schneck 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern,
Anne Smart 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern and Rachel Bleshman 2006 AGI/AAPG
Information for the background taken from AGI's Water
Resources Page for the 108th Congress.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI
Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on October 12, 2006.