Cramer Announces Passage of House Water Bill
Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Kevin Cramer announced the House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform & Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA), a bill which supports water infrastructure needs, reduces the backlog of Army Corps of Engineers projects, authorizes the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion, and ensures better communication of flood risk to the public.
The last version of the bill was signed into law in 2007. Cramer said six years is too long between bills and advocates a return to a two-year cycle to prevent waste and maximize oversight of water projects.
“The House water bill acknowledges the critical nature of flood protection and makes the federal government work faster and better to approve and execute projects. This is a step in the right direction for North Dakota and it is my hope Congress will recognize the value of working more efficiently with states on the approval of projects. To ensure adequate flood protection and proper oversight of federal spending, it is critical we return to the traditional two year WRDA enactment cycle,” said Cramer.
Flood protection and infrastructure
WRRDA authorizes a final feasibility study for the F-M Diversion, allowing construction of the diversion to move forward. To deal with a backlog of existing Army Corps of Engineers water infrastructure projects, the bill deauthorizes $12 billion in projects dated before 2007, completely offsetting the cost of new projects ($8 billion). The bill also sets hard deadlines on the time and cost of studies, and terminates projects which have not begun construction after seven years to prevent a future backlog.
In a speech on the House floor today, Cramer said another key reform in the bill lifts current restrictions on non-federal sponsors’ ability to move projects forward. Non-federal entities are able to contribute funds to the Corps to expedite the processing of permits, the Corps is allowed to move to preconstruction planning, engineering, and design activities immediately after completing a feasibility study, and non-federal interests may carry out work at their own expense for a project where a feasibility report has been completed but has not received authorization from Congress. Taken together, the reforms in this bill will allow state and local entities or the private sector to move forward with critical water projects in the face of limited federal resources.
“It allows local governments and local communities to do the right thing for themselves,” Cramer added. “This will be very beneficial for North Dakota communities seeking flood protection projects and our nation’s ports and waterways keeping up with the demands of a world market.”
Written into WRRDA is language similar to a bill Cramer cosponsored with Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD), the Army Corps of Engineers Communications Accountability Act of 2013. It addresses the lack of communication between the Corps and the general public suffered during the 2011 Missouri River flood by requiring public notice of any runoff expected to be damaging to life or property.
The House passed the companion appropriations bill to WRRDA on July 6, and it awaits Senate consideration. A Cramer amendment in the bill blocks the Army Corps of Engineers from charging Missouri River users for water, specifying funds made available in the Act may not be used to establish a fee for surplus water from Missouri River reservoirs including Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe. Also included in WRRDA is a sense of the Congress that the Corps of Engineers should operate in a manner consistent with interstate water agreements and compacts. Coupled with a similar provision in the Senate WRDA legislation introduced by Senator John Hoeven, Cramer said the conference committee should have overwhelming reason to include the provision.