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National Wildlife Federation: Water Bill Contains ‘Wins’ for Wildlife

Bill allows Everglades reservoir to move forward

Washington, DC – Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, issued the following statement on the final water resources bill that has just passed the House.

“America’s waterways and coastlines are vital to wildlife and the nation’s economy. We were proud to work with the bipartisan leadership of Chairman Barrasso, Senator Carper, Chairman Shuster, Rep. DeFazio, Chair Walden, and Rep. Pallone on a final bill that includes several huge wins for wildlife and America’s natural resources. Notably, the bill includes a provision Senator Carper championed encouraging the Army Corps to promote natural infrastructure projects—such as restoring wetlands, oyster reefs or sand dunes—as a highly effective way to protect communities from storms and floods. Further, the bill contains an important bipartisan agreement by Chairman Barrasso, Senator Carper, Chairman Walden, and Rep. Pallone to expand investments in drinking water, wastewater, and irrigation systems and reauthorize the Safe Drinking Water Act for the first time in 20 years.”

“Last month I visited southwest Florida and was horrified by the guacamole-like blue-green algae clogging the Caloosahatchee River. This bill approves a long-overdue reservoir that will restore natural flows of clean water to the Everglades while reducing the polluted discharges that trigger the outbreaks of toxic algae. Now it’s time for Congress to fully match Florida’s financial contribution so we can get this much-needed project implemented on the ground.”

The National Wildlife Federation welcomed several other positive aspects of this bill:

  • The bill requires a number of studies on the way the Army Corps plans, values, and operates its projects, and whether those projects have a disproportionate impact on minority and low-income communities. The National Wildlife Federation has long called for significant reforms in these areas and we welcome these initial steps. 
  • There is much outdated and unnecessary infrastructure on our nation’s waterways that causes significant harm to fish and wildlife. This bill makes important changes to the disposition study process, which should ultimately facilitate the removal of aging and dangerous dams and other structures.
  • The independent peer review requirements, first passed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, were extended by five years. The National Wildlife Federation believes the independent peer review process should be made permanent to ensure that Corps planning is ecologically, scientifically, and economically sound. 
  • A number of provisions that would have restricted the public’s ability to weigh in on proposed federal water projects or undermined environmental reviews and permitting for large-scale water resources projects were stripped out or modified during conference (some provisions that reduce environmental protections remain in the bill).

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