House passes $3B biennial water bill
- The U.S. House on Wednesday passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 by an overwhelming majority of 408-2, a significant step toward reauthorizing the approximately $3 billion biennial, bipartisan bill that allows the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain America's water infrastructure, The Hill reported. The Senate will start work on its own version this summer.
- In addition to giving the green light to the Army Corps to provide upkeep to dams, ports and anti-flood efforts, the bill also calls for an analysis of the impact of relocating the Corps' civil operations from the Pentagon to another agency or a new entity of its own. The measure also scraps idle water infrastructure projects and uses that money to fund new ones.
- The bill is part of the package of five or six bills House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-Wis) referred to earlier this year when describing how he and other Republicans would attack the infrastructure issue. Despite support from both sides of the aisle for the measure, the White House expressed concern about the number of projects and studies for which it provides and said it would work with lawmakers on revisions to ensure "high economic or environmental returns to the nation."
According to the Army Corps' 2014-2018 Civil Works Strategic Plan, it manages 707 dams, 12,000 miles of commercial inland waterways and 13,000 miles of costal channels at 926 ports that move freight. The agency also oversees 14,500 miles of levee systems, 75 hydroelectric power facilities and almost 55,000 miles of lake shoreline and recreation areas that see 370 million visitors each year. All in all, the Army Corps manages $259 billion worth of water resources infrastructure.
With all of the assets it has under its control, it's not surprising that the Army Corps has to deal with some infrastructure problems.
In February of last year, a spillway failure at the Oroville Dam in Oroville, California, forced the evacuation of 188,000 people and threatened to flood the community downstream. That never happened, but, after the scare, the California Department of Water Resources selected Kiewit Corp to make hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs. Early last month, Kiewit started work on the second phase of the work.
The Army Corps could have an even bigger headache waiting in the future as a California water department report indicated that there were seven other dams built around the same time as the one that failed in Oroville, all using similar designs and construction methods.
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