October 10, 2018

Warner & Kaine Successfully Include Virginia Projects In Final Bipartisan Water Infrastructure Bill

Includes provisions to widen and deepen Norfolk Harbor and protect Tangier Island and Coastal Virginia

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of the bipartisan America’s Water Infrastructure Act. The final legislation included key projects for Virginia championed by Warner and Kaine, including authorization for a project to deepen and widen channels in and around Norfolk Harbor and to initiate new flood-resilience projects for Tangier Island and the broader Coastal Virginia region.

“From defending Virginia’s coastal communities against sea level rise, to funding key water infrastructure projects that boost our economic competitiveness, this bill is good for Virginia and good for our country,” the Senators said. “Throughout our travels on Virginia’s coast, we’ve heard from leaders concerned about the impacts of sea level rise and recurrent flooding, and this legislation builds on our efforts to respond to the urgent need to protect treasured pillars of Virginia’s economy. We’re pleased that our colleagues supported Virginia provisions we pushed for and we’re proud that we were able to find common ground to address challenges facing our communities.”   

Water infrastructure bills are often known as Water Resources Development Acts (WRDAs). America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, this year’s version of the bill, supports maritime infrastructure priorities such as dredging waterways and channels, protecting communities from flooding, and restoring key ecosystems like the Chesapeake Bay. The legislation will also help repair aging drinking water, wastewater, and irrigation systems.

Virginia priorities that the Senators pushed for in the legislation include:

  • Norfolk Harbor and Channels Widening and Deepening—A provision that authorizes the deepening and widening of federal navigation channels in and around Norfolk Harbor—including the deepening of the main Norfolk Harbor Channel to 55 feet, the deepest draft currently authorized of any international port on the East Coast. This will allow the largest post-Panamax container ships to call on the Port of Virginia, bolstering its competitiveness with East Coast ports like New York/New Jersey and Savannah, GA. The deeper and wider channels will also support Navy and Coast Guard vessels and other commercial users of the port. This project is occurring in concert with other port infrastructure improvements, including the expansion of Norfolk International Terminals and Virginia International Gateway to provide a 40 percent increase in overall capacity; the modernization of the regional freight rail network; and the generational Craney Island Eastward Expansion that will add a new container terminal at the site of the Port of Virginia’s dredge fill facility. Last year, the Port of Virginia supported more than 4,000 jobs and $860 million in business investment in Virginia.
  • Provisions to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to generate detailed plans for Tangier Island and Coastal Virginia that reduce risk from sea level rise and recurrent flooding in these areas.
    • The Tangier Island Study Authority will evaluate ecosystem restoration, flood risk management, and navigation options that reduce the island’s critical vulnerability to erosion and flood damage. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that if immediate action is not taken, Tangier Island could be substantially uninhabitable within the next 50 years due to erosion, widely believed to be caused by sea level rise due to climate change. The island currently shrinks by 15 feet each year. 
    • The Coastal Virginia Water Resources Authority will look at options to reduce storm and flood damage and make coastal infrastructure and communities less vulnerable to flooding and shoreline erosion associated with sea level rise and climate change. This follows a previous study for the City of Norfolk.
  • A provision that grants conditional approval for the Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management project pending an evaluation from the Army Corps, known as the “Chief’s Report.” The conditional approval would allow the city to start preconstruction design and engineering of the project ahead of formal authorization needed by Congress at a later date. This project would address roughly $1.5 billion of flood control needs in the City of Norfolk. Norfolk was one of nine focus areas on the East Coast identified in an analysis of regional flood resilience needs following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The Hampton Roads region faces a range of 1 ½ to as much as 7 feet in sea level rise by the year 2100.

Full text of the legislation can be found HERE.

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