WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, applauded committee passage of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020. This bipartisan legislation includes Boozman-authored provisions to strengthen the nation’s water resources.
“Our nation’s waterways are critical to transportation, job creation and promoting commerce. Investing in water resources is crucial to supporting the needs of the agricultural industry, providing protection from floods and increasing access to clean drinking water in communities across Arkansas. I’m pleased policies to ensure our water infrastructure continues to meet the demands of Arkansans have been included in this bill,” Boozman said.
The bill includes a number of provisions authored by Boozman to strengthen waterway infrastructure:
Assistance for McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River and Ouachita-Black River Navigation Projects
This language requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to provide assistance to non-federal stakeholders associated with the deepening of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River navigation channel to a minimum depth of 12 feet. It also requires the Corps to provide assistance to stakeholders by adding water supply as a purpose for the Ouachita-Black River navigation project in Arkansas and Louisiana.
Credit or Reimbursement for Materials
Boozman’s measures allows a non-federal entity that contributes materials or services to repair, restore, replace or maintain a water resources project to be eligible for reimbursement for the value of the materials and services.
This provision will allow non-federal private or public entities to be eligible for credit or reimbursement, making it possible for a stakeholder to provide materials or money to get a project done more quickly instead of waiting on the federal government to fund important infrastructure projects in Arkansas. While it is not guaranteed that the entity will receive credit or reimbursement, it does give them the opportunity to apply to the Corps to get their money back.
This language allows the Corps to maximize use of “tradeoff procedures” in competitive acquisitions while carrying out work with states in an area under a disaster declaration.
When responding to emergencies, time is always a critical factor. For example, if Arkansas is dealing with a major flood that shuts down its rivers, it will need to work quickly to dredge the river to ensure the system gets up and running so commerce does not slow down. This provision will allow Arkansas, in conjunction with the Corps, to select the dredging company they believe will get the job done in the most expedient and efficient manner and will not obligate them to choose the cheapest company available.
Improve Levee Safety
Boozman’s provision updates the levee safety evaluation process by requiring the Corps to provide solutions and the associated costs to fix existing deficiencies for levees that fail to meet the highest rating standard. When identifying deficiencies and describing remedies, the Corps is required to consult with relevant non-federal interests and provide them with an opportunity to comment. This will provide a much-needed road map for deficient and minimally acceptable levee systems in Arkansas to improve safety and raise their classification with the Corps.
Permits Studies of Water Resources Development Projects by Non-Federal Entities
This language would allow a non-federal entity to conduct a feasibility study on modifications or improvements to a project constructed by the Corps. The Corps is required to issue guidelines for feasibility studies of water resources development projects conducted by non-federal interests to provide sufficient information for the formulation of the studies, including processes and procedures related to reviews and assistance.
This provision would help stakeholders in future Corps projects in Arkansas complete their own feasibility studies and submit them for review. This would mean non-federal stakeholders would not be forced to wait for the federal government. This allows the non-federal stakeholder to complete their study more quickly, saving valuable time and money.
Conforming Construction Cost-Sharing for Inland Waterway Transportation
Boozman’s provision adjusts the cost-share for construction or major rehabilitation of an inland waterways navigation project to 65 percent from the general fund of the Treasury and 35 percent from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF). The change in cost-share applies to projects authorized on or after the date of enactment of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 and for which the construction or major rehabilitation has not been initiated or completed by the date of enactment of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020.
If constrained to a 50-50 cost share, many of the IWTF projects will not even begin construction in the next 20 years. Shifting the cost share for all IWTF projects to a 65-35 ratio could enable the currently authorized Arkansas projects to be completed more quickly.
Reauthorizes the Clean Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF)
CWSRF provides communities low-cost financing for water infrastructure projects. This provision amends the Clean Water Act to reauthorize the program and increase its authorization to $3 billion over three years. In Fiscal Year 2020, Arkansas was allotted $10.5 million for the program.
The committee also approved the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020, legislation that creates, updates and improves Environmental Protection Agency programs associated with drinking water infrastructure under the Safe Drinking Water Act.