Key Provisions in Bipartisan Bill Will Advance Crucial Protections for Vulnerable Communities, Ecosystems

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The final version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 filed in the House contains important bipartisan provisions that will advance the development of equitable solutions to growing flood and storm risks facing communities while also revitalizing vital wildlife habitats.

“Coastal and riverine communities — especially frontline and indigenous communities — face immense climate-fueled water challenges worsened by decades of assaults on protective natural systems,” said Jessie Ritter, senior director of water resources and coastal policy at the National Wildlife Federation. “Numerous provisions in the bill help address these concerns by creating new avenues for vulnerable communities to access and engage with the agency, and advancing critical restoration that will increase the resilience of the nation’s waters. Congress should advance these provisions before the end of the year to ensure an urgent and equitable response to the nation’s mounting water challenges.”

The bill, which authorizes U.S. Army Corps of Engineers activities related to water resource management and ecosystem restoration, includes provisions that increase opportunities for Tribes, rural, and economically disadvantaged communities to access Corps assistance and provide input into Corps processes.

In addition, the bill contains significant support for ecosystem restoration efforts across the country, including a long overdue clarification that restoration of wetlands around the City of New Orleans, which were decimated by an ill-conceived water resources project, should be restored at full federal expense, protecting vulnerable communities in the region.

Key provisions that the National Wildlife Federation supports include:

  • redressing pervasive environmental injustices by providing tools and direction to the Army Corps to assist Tribes and frontline communities in obtaining equitable solutions for their water resources challenges, including by establishing a Tribal and economically disadvantaged communities advisory committee and Tribal Liaisons for each Corps District; expanding the Tribal Partnership program and making the program less costly to Tribes; and facilitating remediation of contaminated sediments at certain Corps projects.
  • protecting communities and the environment by directing the Corps to help restore the nation’s shorelines, riverbanks, and streambanks; and allowing comprehensive evaluation of flood risks when planning flood and storm damage reduction projects.
  • restoring the vitally important Mississippi River and its coastal and floodplain wetlands by clarifying that the federal government will cover the costs of restoring the Louisiana coastal wetlands destroyed by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and of developing the Lower Mississippi River Comprehensive Management Study; directing the Corps to routinely carry out water level management activities at the River’s locks and dams to restore fish and wildlife habitat and reduce sedimentation; and expanding the Upper Mississippi River restoration program.
  • advancing restoration of America’s Everglades including by studying options to eliminate harmful discharges and toxic algae throughout the Greater Everglades ecosystem to safeguard the drinking water of 9 million Floridians.
  • preventing the movement of invasive carp and other invasive species from the Mississippi River basin into the Great Lakes by establishing a 90 percent federal cost share for the Brandon Road project.  Ultimately, this project should be authorized at full federal expense to ensure there are no delays in the funding and construction of this critically important project.

Other elements of the bill, however, deserve further scrutiny. The authorization of the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration project — among the most expensive coastal infrastructure projects ever attempted by the United States — remains a major concern as the project requires significant additional analysis and study.

Both the Senate and the House passed separate versions of the bill earlier this summer. The new reconciled bill will likely go to the floor for votes in each chamber before the end of the year.

The final WRDA provisions negotiated between the House of Representatives and the Senate appear in Division H, Title LXXXI (starting on page 3,160) of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).


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