May 22, 2018

Building America's Water Infrastructure


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • America’s Water Infrastructure Act answers President Trump’s call to improve the nation’s infrastructure and cut bureaucratic red tape.
  • This bipartisan bill helps local communities carry out important water infrastructure projects and flood safety initiatives.
  • AWIA also promotes fiscal responsibility by deauthorizing $7.5 billion in unnecessary projects.

Water infrastructure helps every community in America. It provides clean drinking water, access to the global economy through ports, and the ability to move goods by river. America’s Water Infrastructure Act authorizes infrastructure programs and projects that benefit the entire country. The bill cuts red tape and promotes federalism by giving towns and states a greater role in setting priorities for the Army Corps of Engineers. It is a significant step in President Trump’s plan for improving America’s infrastructure.

A Federalist Plan for Rebuilding American Infrastructure

 Water Infrastructure

STRENGTHENING THE ECONOMY AND IMPROVING SAFETY

AWIA authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to carry out a wide range of water infrastructure projects touching virtually every aspect of America’s economy. Agricultural and rural communities benefit from improved irrigation systems. Manufacturers gain from improvements to coastal and inland ports.

In addition to direct economic benefits, AWIA helps keep Americans safe. Flood prevention and mitigation are important parts of the bill. It authorizes significant funds for maintaining water and wastewater infrastructure. The Corps of Engineers also will be launching projects to increase water storage and supply, an issue of great interest to rural Americans.

Cutting Red Tape

While AWIA authorizes many new water infrastructure projects, it also improves the efficiency of the infrastructure selection and construction process. The bill pushes the Corps of Engineers to complete feasibility studies for new projects within two years. The Corps will be able to develop and initiate new categorical exclusions from environmental impact statement requirements to reduce red tape.

AWIA’s efficiency improvements also include spending reductions. It directs the secretary of the Army to identify and deauthorize $7.5 billion worth of unnecessary projects.

Several provisions in the bill increase transparency at the Corps of Engineers. The bill allows local stakeholders to participate in all consultation meetings. It eliminates the need for multiple benefit-cost-ratio assessments from the Corps for a single project — once the project has one, it never needs to be reassessed by the Corps. To ensure accountability and efficiency, the bill also mandates reports on benefit-cost analyses and permitting processes.

AWIA bolsters non-federal funding for infrastructure projects by reauthorizing the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act. This program, administered by the Corps and EPA, provides low-interest loans for local, state, and tribal entities, as well as the private sector. The legislation includes language to help smaller communities leverage these loans to complete needed infrastructure projects.

A FEDERALIST SYSTEM FOR WATER INFRASTRUCTURE

Previous infrastructure bills often let Washington decide which projects were priorities and assign funding amounts without substantial local involvement. AWIA creates a closer partnership with local stakeholders who better understand their own water needs.

The bill modifies the permitting process to let states challenge Army Corps of Engineers decisions regarding a water storage project’s purpose or permit conditions. It uses non-federal money more responsibly, requiring the agency to refund a project’s excess funding or put it toward a different project by the same local sponsor.

Issue Tag: Environment