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House Passes Water Resources Legislation

U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C. /, dszc

Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 7776, legislation to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) by a vote of 384-37. The measure would authorize an estimated $40 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to implement critical infrastructure projects, studies, and policies related to our nation’s waterways. Congress first enacted WRDA in 1974. Since 2014, Congress passed WRDA bills on a biennial basis due to its essential role in the 50 states, territories, and Tribal nations. 

Along with supporting traditional Corps projects like developing and maintaining U.S. ports, harbors, waterways, dams, and levees as a means of facilitating navigation and promoting commerce, the House-passed bill would take steps to address environmental degradation, climate change and equity. Specifically the bill would:

  • Support about 100 environmental infrastructure projects, including ecosystem restoration projects.
  • Support green-infrastructure by reviewing current policies to preserve open space, recreational areas, and critical habitats in water resources development projects.
  • Incorporate nature-based solutions by directing the Corps to identify opportunities to include natural or nature-based features into flood or storm risk management projects prior to executing a cost-sharing agreement for a feasibility study.
  • Address climate change impacts by authorizing the Corps to maintain and reconstruct jetties, breakwaters, and storm damage reduction projects to address sea-level rise, extreme weather, and similar challenges posed by our changing climate.
  • Expand equity and environmental justice by increasing the Corps’ authority to study water resources challenges facing economically disadvantaged communities, communities of color, and Tribal and rural communities at no cost to the community in addition to requiring the appointment of local liaisons for enhanced coordination with Tribal and indigenous groups on water resources issues.
In recent surveys, ASLA members have identified their increasing work on WRDA projects, including projects that focus on stormwater runoff; flood control; sea-level rise; damaged shorelines and natural landscape protection, and more. Throughout the years, ASLA has encouraged policy makers and Corps leaders to study and adopt increased use of green infrastructure and nature-based solutions, which not only directly address water resources issues but also provide additional community-wide benefits.
Currently, the Senate has not taken action on its version of WRDA, S.4137. ASLA will continue to monitor this important legislation and when possible promote the use of nature-based solutions and other landscape architecture techniques. 

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