Water Resources Development Act of 2016: H.R. 5303 and S. 2848

The House and Senate versions of the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA 2016) have different scopes.

  • The House version of WRDA 2016 (H.R. 5303) continues the traditional focus of WRDAs on the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The House passed H.R. 5303 on September 28, 2016.
  • The Senate bill (S. 2848) is an omnibus water bill addressing a variety of water issues and activities of multiple federal agencies; the Senate passed S. 2848 on September 15, 2016.

The provisions below illustrate the scope and potential effects of the two bills.

Corps Authorizations and Funding

  • Senate and House—both bills would authorize new Corps studies and construction projects and modifications to ongoing projects. S. 2848 would authorize 29 new construction projects at a federal cost of $8.4 billion. The House version would authorize 30 projects at a total cost of federal cost of $8.7 billion. For more, see CRS Insight IN10510, Water Resources Development Act of 2016: Army Corps of Engineers Provisions in H.R. 5303 and S. 2848, by [author name scrubbed].
  • House—H.R. 5303 as passed by the House did not include a provision from an earlier version of the bill. Section 108 of H.R. 5303 as reported by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure would have made available the balance of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund in FY2027 without further appropriation.
  • Senate, Section 2011—would reduce the nonfederal cost share for certain harbor construction activities. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the provision would increase the federal share by $430 million from FY2017 to FY2026.
  • House, Section 185—would require the Corps to review its tribal consultation policies for permits and projects and to report back to Congress in one year.

Drinking Water, Wastewater, and Emergency Public Health Provisions (Flint)

  • Senate, Title VII—would fund existing and authorize new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water and wastewater infrastructure programs. This title would directly provide $100 million for Drinking Water State Revolving Funds for states with lead-related emergency declarations and $70 million to EPA for a new water infrastructure loan program known as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. This title also would provide $20 million in mandatory spending to establish a lead-exposure registry for a city with a lead-contaminated water system and an advisory committee, and $30 million to administer lead-poisoning prevention and other childhood health programs. For more on EPA provisions, see CRS In Focus IF10471, WRDA 2016: Clean Water Act and Infrastructure Financing Provisions in Senate-Passed S. 2848, by [author name scrubbed], and CRS In Focus IF10474, WRDA 2016: Infrastructure, Lead, and Other Safe Drinking Water Act Provisions in Senate-Passed S. 2848, by [author name scrubbed].
  • House—Section 192 of H.R. 5303 would provide an authorization of appropriations of $170 million for the Corps to provide environmental infrastructure assistance to repair or replace qualifying public or private water systems. Eligibility would be limited to communities identified in specific provisions of earlier WRDA bills that also are in states with presidential emergency declarations for chemical, physical, or biological constituents (including lead) or other contaminants in their water systems. Genesee County, MI, where Flint is located, appears to qualify; other counties in Michigan and in other states also may qualify. Related appropriations are not included.

Ecosystem, Coastal, and Watershed Provisions

  • Senate, Title IV—would adjust a number of authorities for specific Corps watershed and regional ecosystem restoration and coastal efforts (e.g., Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration).
  • Senate, Title VII—would authorize new or amended ecosystem restoration activities for federal agencies other than the Corps in the Columbia River basin, Delaware River basin, Great Lakes, Lake Tahoe, Long Island Sound, and California's Salton Sea.
  • Senate, multiple provisions—would require consideration of the effects of sea-level rise on Corps activities (e.g., Sections 1017, 2017, 4013, and 4015). Section 4013 also would require the Secretary of the Army to convene an interagency working group on resilience to extreme weather and sea-level rise and related federal investments.
  • House—Section 147 would require the Corps to conduct a comprehensive study of flood risks for vulnerable coastal populations in the Corps' South Atlantic Division (which includes southeastern states and U.S. territories in the Caribbean). Section 186 would require the Corps to develop a structural health monitoring program (including sea-level rise risks) for its infrastructure.

Environmental Protection, Innovative Technology, and Nonfederal Dam Safety

  • Senate, Section 8001—would create a mechanism to allow EPA to approve state programs regulating coal combustion residuals (CCR, known commonly as coal ash) and would allow EPA to regulate CCR in states that choose not to.
  • Senate, Section 8006—would modify the applicability of EPA's Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure regulations for farms by excluding specific oil-storage containers from regulation.
  • Senate, Section 8010—would address the payment of claims for response costs associated with the August 2015 Gold King Mine incident. It also would authorize a long-term water quality monitoring program downstream of the mine.
  • Senate, multiple provisions—would authorize innovative water technology adoption and related research (e.g., Sections 7304, 7305, 4306, 7308, and 7309) through EPA, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Geological Survey programs.
  • Senate, Section 3004—would authorize a new Federal Emergency Management Agency grant program to assist state dam safety programs with rehabilitation of high-hazard nonfederal dams.
  • House—no similar provisions.

Drought Preparedness and Project Reoperations

  • Senate, Section 7307—would require various federal departments to jointly develop non-regulatory drought resilience guidelines to support local drought-preparedness planning and investments.
  • Senate, Section 7302—would expand EPA's WIFIA program to include projects to enhance water supplies by improving drought and other natural hazard resilience and reducing aquifer depletion.
  • Senate, Section 1048—would authorize the Corps to review and update the federal flood control operation guidelines for certain nonfederal dams.
  • Senate, Section 1012—would authorize the Corps to review and approve proposals to increase available water supplies from federal water resources projects.
  • House, Section 111—would authorize the Corps to evaluate and carry out water supply conservation measures at its projects in states with recent drought emergencies.