(August 12, 2020) – As Members of Congress return to their home states and Congressional districts until after Labor Day for the August recess, Congressional staff have begun the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2020 conference negotiation process in hopes of hammering out a final bill for House and Senate passage this fall.
This comprehensive piece of water resources legislation, which is scheduled to be passed every two years, authorizes and advances the work of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In recent Congresses, it has also become a catch-all vehicle for advancing drinking water and clean water legislative priorities.
This Congress, the Senate’s bipartisan S. 3591, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act 2020 (AWIA), and the House’s bipartisan H.R. 1497, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2019, are expected to serve as the core clean water legislative basis for WRDA 2020 conference negotiations. NACWA was heavily involved in shaping both bills during the legislative process.
Earlier this week, NACWA sent a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees requesting clean water be a key part of any final conferenced WRDA 2020 bill. The letter highlights how the public clean water sector needs greater federal resources and tools to help communities meet rapidly growing clean water infrastructure needs and obligations, especially given the financial uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to NACWA’s conference priorities letter, the Association also joined a broad water sector letter urging that Congress build upon a small utility resiliency grant program created in the 2018 WRDA process. The changes sought to this program would allow for participation from all clean and drinking water utilities regardless of size, as well as additional funding. Establishing this resiliency program for utilities has been an important priority for NACWA and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) for several years.
While separate from NACWA’s ongoing advocacy push to secure federal relief related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, WRDA 2020 provides the sector with an incredibly important opportunity to secure increased and robust federal funding for key clean water programs, including the largest ever authorized increase for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), a key component of H.R. 1497.
The bipartisan WRDA legislation produced by the House and Senate to date, along with NACWA’s strong and ongoing bipartisan engagement with the House and Senate, has positioned the public clean water sector well for inclusion of strong funding in a potential final WRDA bill. But it is critical that Members of Congress hear from their local utilities about the importance of increased federal funding in a final WRDA bill and the impact it can have on their local communities and constituents.
NACWA encourages all members to weigh in with your Senators and Representatives on the importance of comprehensive WRDA legislation – please feel free to forward NACWA’s letter to your elected officials and/or use it as a template for your own letter. NACWA will continue to provide WRDA 2020 updates as they occur. Please contact Kristina Surfus or Jason Isakovic on NACWA’s legislative team to discuss further.