December 10, 2016

Warner, Kaine Praise Final Passage Of Bipartisan Water Infrastructure Bill

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine applauded final passage of the bipartisan Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act), also known as the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes water infrastructure projects across the nation. This bill makes investments in harbor dredging, maintenance of locks and dams, flood control, ecosystem restoration and other water-related priorities. Additionally, the bill includes a package of measures to address the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, as well as steps to lessen risks for similar communities across the country with aging drinking water infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ biennial infrastructure report card gives Virginia an overall grade of C- for the state of its water and transportation infrastructure.

“We voted for this bill because it makes overdue investments in many priorities important to Virginia – dredging and port infrastructure, restoration of important ecosystems like the Chesapeake Bay, and resilience to flooding and sea level rise for large coastal communities like Hampton Roads and small rural ones like Chincoteague. This bill also devotes emergency funding to deal with lead-contaminated drinking water for the people of Flint, Michigan. We appreciate the inclusion of Virginia provisions we authored and applaud the bipartisan vote on this commonsense infrastructure bill,” the Senators said.

The following list includes several provisions for which Warner and Kaine advocated that were included in the final bill:

·       A study of Chincoteague Island evaluating the perennial flooding and erosion challenges facing the region and examining options of how to fix these issues, how much they would cost, and how much the federal cost-share would be. With nearly 2.3 million visitors last year, Assateague Island National Seashore and the adjacent Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge are premiere tourism destinations on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Extreme weather events have occurred frequently in recent years, including last January’s blizzard that caused some $725,000 in damage and nearly destroyed the recreational beach parking lot. 

·       Reauthorization and funding increase for the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration Program, a successful public-private partnership among the Army Corps of Engineers, states, localities, and groups like The Nature Conservancy. This program has helped reverse years of declining oyster populations in the Bay by supporting oyster reef projects in key Virginia locations, such as the Rappahannock, Lafayette and Piankatank Rivers. The additional funds authorized in this provision will help Virginia and other Bay watershed states reach the 2025 pollution reduction goals laid out in the Chesapeake Bay Agreement.

·       Section 4013 updates an existing coastal resiliency program to prioritize federal funds for projects in communities threatened by sea level rise while creating an interagency working group to coordinate data on sea level rise across federal agencies. It also requires federal consultation with state organizations working to coordinate resilience investment across federal, state, regional, and local bureaucratic entities. This will promote more informed decision-making about sea level rise planning in key regions like Hampton Roads, while ensuring that resilience-related grants from multiple agencies are serving complementary objectives. This provision will also provide formal federal backing for state-sponsored task forces like the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency – an interagency, cross-jurisdictional clearinghouse for Hampton Roads sea level rise planning co-led by Old Dominion University and William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

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