Casey Efforts Will Improve Water Infrastructure for Rural Municipalities, Protect Mid-Atlantic Basin System
Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that the U.S. Senate has passed his proposals to benefit Southwestern Pennsylvania’s locks and dams, improve water infrastructure for rural communities and ensure the Mid-Atlantic Basin system is protected. This afternoon, the Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) S. 610. The legislation includes key parts of Senator Casey’s RIVER Act which will spur investment in locks and dams in Pennsylvania and makes major reforms to the way water infrastructure projects are managed in order to save taxpayers money by cutting out waste and reducing cost overruns.
“I’m pleased that the U.S. Senate came together in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion to pass legislation that could provide major improvements to Southwestern Pennsylvania’s locks and dams while creating jobs and boosting the economy,” Senator Casey said. “Southwestern Pennsylvania’s waterways support over 200,000 jobs and are drivers of economic growth. They will benefit substantially from provisions in my RIVER Act. There’s more work to do to improve this legislation as it works its way through the House of Representatives, but I will continue to push to get this bill through both chambers and on to the President’s desk.”
Several provisions Senator Casey championed were included in the WRDA Act, including major portions of the RIVER Act:
- Cost Share Requirements: WRDA reforms the way waterways’ projects are paid for and increases the overall investment in inland waterways projects. It will also increase the cost-share for major rehabilitation projects from $8 million to $20 million.
- Project Management Process Reforms: This bill appoints an inland waterways user board members to the project development team of any qualifying project and require their sign-off on any qualifying project. This allows industries to have a seat at the table for the projects which they are helping to fund.
- Olmsted Lock and Dam Project: WRDA adjusts the federal cost-share for the Olmsted Lock and Dam Project which will help it be completed as soon as possible while also freeing up significant funding for other lock and dam construction projects. This moves the Lower Monongahela lock and dam replacement project to the top of the list of projects funded by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and allow it to receive significantly more funding. This is a crucial step to improving the inland waterways system.
- Pilot Project Requirement: WRDA directs the Army Corp of Engineers to use a pilot project to evaluate the use of early contractor involvement in acquisitions. It also establishes a system to identify and apply lessons learned from previous projects to improve the likelihood of projects being completed on time and on budget. These reforms are all geared toward lowering project costs and reducing cost overruns.
- Recreational Boating Pilot Program: This bill includes pilot program that would allow non-federal entities to contribute funding to keep locks open for recreation boaters. Increased access to these locks will help local businesses, such as marinas, thrive and boost regional tourism.
- 20 Year Capital Development Plan: WRDA will require the Secretary of the Army to work with the Inland Waterways Users board to develop a twenty year capital investment program for inland waterways projects.
- Rural Set Aside for Water Infrastructure: This bill creates a new water infrastructure program that provides loans to municipalities and utilities to rehabilitate and expand waste and drinking water facilities. Senator Casey co-sponsored a bi-partisan amendment that lowers the cost threshold and allows projects over $5 million in rural communities to be eligible for the program.
- Support for the Mid-Atlantic River Basin Commissions: Senator Casey co-sponsored an amendment to ensure continued sound management of the Delaware River Basin Commission, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, and the Potomac River Basin commission that was included in the final bill. This provision will annually fund the Mid-Atlantic River basin commissions and help to ensure the regional ecosystems are protected