Water Resources Bill: Good, Bad, and Ugly
Lock and Dam 5a - Fountain City, WIOn October 23, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) – the main bill Congress uses to authorize Army Corps of Engineers water development projects, such as locks and dams, and programs to restore rivers harmed by such projects. Unfortunately, the legislation approved by the House contains several harmful provisions and missed opportunities.
The Izaak Walton League led an effort to expand river restoration work – at no additional cost to taxpayers – in critical areas along the Upper Mississippi River. The Upper Mississippi River-Environmental Management Program is the main program for restoring the Upper Mississippi, but projects are limited to the main stem of the river.
Congressman Tim Walz (MN) introduced an amendment to allow restoration projects at the confluences where tributaries enter the river and anywhere between the river bluffs. (One of the major problems threatening the river is sediment and other polluted runoff from tributaries.) Congressional leaders blocked this common-sense amendment and missed an opportunity to improve natural resources along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. The League, our members, and our chapters thank Congressman Walz for his efforts.
The House also approved provisions that will directly harm rivers across the nation. The controversial "environmental streamlining" provisions curtail government transparency and public engagement on water resources projects, increasing the likelihood that water projects that can destroy natural areas and undermine outdoor recreation will proceed.
The U.S. Senate passed its version of this legislation in May. The bills differ on many of the points listed above, so a conference committee will need to work out the details before sending the bill to the president's desk. Stay tuned for opportunities to contact members of Congress during the conference committee work.