Esty Celebrates Water Infrastructure Wins for Connecticut
October 26, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Today, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) released the following statement after it was announced President Trump signed S. 3021, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, into law. The bill is a compromise version that contains much of H.R. 8, the Water Resources Development Act of 2018, which the House passed in June. Esty was able to secure three of her amendments into the final text of the bill. Several provisions of the bill also help communities across Connecticut improve their water infrastructure and technologies.
“This is great news for Connecticut cities and towns that have been ravaged by floods over the years, with the loss of lives as well as the loss of millions of dollars of property,” said Esty. “It is the job of Congress to lay the foundation for more sustainable materials and productive techniques that will allow America to rebuild its infrastructure. As Vice Ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and nearly 6-year member of the Water Resources Subcommittee, I am proud of the work we have done across party lines for better policy and more federal funding to ensure safe drinking water and less flooding across our country.”
Esty’s amendments in the final text include:
- Calling on the Secretary of the Army to report to Congress on research that will advance the use of innovative materials in water infrastructure projects. This would require the Secretary of the Army to report to Congress on current research activities at the U.S. Army Corps that identify uses for innovative materials in water resources projects. In August, Esty introduced the IMAGINE Act, which would encourage the research and use of innovative construction materials.
- Directing the National Academy of Sciences to study the effects of the frequent rotations in senior leadership within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This would call for a study to examine how the frequent rotations in senior leadership at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers effects the success and function of their projects. Esty originally introduced the amendment after experiencing first-hand the frustrations of rotating commanders every two to three years. Since coming to Congress in 2013, she and the communities she represents have had to present to three different New England District Commanders. Longer tenure appointments would better serve communities and taxpayers.
- Directing the National Academy of Sciences to study how the Army Corps of Engineers currently calculates the benefits of potentials Corps projects, and what they can do to improve that calculation. Esty’s third amendment included in the final bill will direct the National Academy of Sciences to study how the Army Corps of Engineers currently calculates the benefits of potential Corps projects, and what they can do to improve that calculation so that more worthwhile projects are approved.
Esty was prompted to introduce this third amendment after a cost-benefit analysis issue derailed a project in the City of Meriden. After the City of Meriden proposed a series of changes and alternative studies to appease the Army Corps of Engineers and issued a draft budget for a potential study area within the Harbor Brook Flood Control and Linear Trail project in order to carry out a flood control study, the Army Corps of Engineers decided to close out of this study, as they could not justify implementation of this alternative area and concluded that it had high implementation costs and limited benefits.
The America’s Water Infrastructure Act will authorize the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers’ feasibility studies, Chief Reports, and Section 7001 water resources projects for flood damage reduction, as well as ecosystem restoration, and hurricane and storm damage reduction. In addition to Esty’s amendments, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act includes important measures that will benefit Connecticut, such as:
- Reauthorizing both the Long Island Sound program and the Long Island Sound Stewardship program at $40 million annually through 2023.
- Authorizing $125 million annually from 2020-21 for Public Water System Supervision (PWSS) grants. Connecticut’s Department of Public Health relies on the PWSS grant program, which provides grants to states to improve operations and ensure the safety of their drinking water systems. Since 2016, Esty has led a letter each year to House Appropriators requesting additional funding to the PWWS grant program, which receives $101.9 million through annual appropriations.
- Reauthorizing the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovative Act (WIFIA) from 2020-2021.
- Reauthorizing the Safe Drinking Water Act for the first time in twenty years.
- Moreover, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to provide written notice to cities, towns, and private groups on the annual process for water resources project selection.