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New Water Resources Law Includes ASLA Priorities

Congress Passes Biennial Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) into law.

2021-02-07

In late December, Congress passed its biennial Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) into law as part of the omnibus spending and coronavirus relief bill. This legislation sets water-related policies and authorizes projects for the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). Always a popular and bipartisan bill, this version was no different and earned broad bipartisan support across both Congressional chambers.

ASLA has long been successful in advocating for the inclusion of provisions important to landscape architects in WRDA bills. In addition to provisions on green and natural infrastructure, WRDA 2020 also includes directives on climate change and environmental justice. The Corps has been slow to implement previous WRDA directives on the consideration and use of green and natural infrastructure. WRDA 2020 instructs the Corps to document the consideration of green and natural infrastructure and strongly encourages its use. Additionally, the maximum nonfederal (matching) costs for green or natural infrastructure was lowered from 50 percent to 35 percent. This legislation also authorized higher funding levels for environmental programs and activities.

Other provisions include requiring the Corps to update guidance on sea level rise and inland flooding to reflect best available peer-reviewed science; to include the consideration of environmental and social goals and regional economic benefits during the planning process; and to offer resiliency planning assistance to ameliorate flooding with specific instructions to include disadvantaged communities that see consistent flooding. WRDA 220 also included pilot programs that allow the Corps to conduct projects in disadvantaged and rural communities that would otherwise be considered cost-prohibitive.

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