H.R. 5303, Water Resources Development Act of 2016

H.R. 5303

Water Resources Development Act of 2016

September 28, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, September 28, 2016, the House will complete consideration of H.R. 5303, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016, under a structured rule. An additional structured rule provides for further consideration. H.R. 5303 was introduced on May 23, 2016, by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and in addition to the Committee on Natural Resources. The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on May 25, 2016. The House will consider Rules Committee Print 114-65, as substitute for H.R. 5303, as reported.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5303 authorizes the United States Army Corps of Engineers to carry out water resources development activities through cost-sharing partnerships with non-federal sponsors. These activities include navigation, flood damage reduction, shoreline protection, hydropower, dam safety, water supply, recreation, environmental restoration and protection, and disaster response and recovery. In addition, H.R. 5303 reforms the Corps planning process, promotes timely project delivery, empowers non-federal project sponsors, and strengthens congressional oversight.

Specifically, the legislation authorizes twenty-seven new projects to improve navigable systems, strengthen flood-risk management, provide hurricane and storm damage risk reduction, and restore the environment. A table can be found on page 29 of Committee Report 114-785. H.R. 5303 also deauthorizes $5 billion is previously authorizes but inactive projects.

In addition, the bill authorizes the Estuary Habitat Restoration program for 5 years and authorizes studies for future water resources improvements, including 30 feasibility studies. Finally, H.R. 5303 reaffirms that WRDA should be considered by Congress every two years.

The Rules Committee Print strikes section 108 of the bill to ensure compliance with the Rules of the House and the Congressional Budget Act.

The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure provided the following highlights of H.R. 5303.


The Army established the Corps as a permanent branch in 1802[1] and since that time, its civil works mission has evolved significantly.  An overview of the Corps’ regulatory jurisdiction is available here.[2]  “Under its civil works program, [the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] plans, builds, operates, and maintains a wide range of water resource facilities.  Its civil works responsibilities are principally to support navigation, reduce flood and storm damage, and protect and restore aquatic ecosystems.”[3]  Corps activities require congressional authorization, which can be project-specific, programmatic, or general.  However, authorizations are insufficient for a Corps study or project to proceed; and “action on an authorization requires funding.”[4]

Authorizations for Corps activities traditionally have been provided in omnibus WRDAs, “making certain projects and activities eligible for receiving federal funding.”[5]  WRDAs also establish policies for Corps civil works activities.[6]  “Historically, water resources legislation has been enacted every two years to provide oversight of and policy direction to the Administration and the Corps of Engineers.

According to the bill’s sponsor, “This bill is about strengthening our Nation’s infrastructure so we can remain competitive.  It’s about economic growth.  It’s about jobs. Water resources infrastructure is fundamental to a sound economy, and WRDA 2016 gets Congress back to basics and the business of regularly addressing the needs of our ports, waterways, lock and dam systems, flood protection, and other infrastructure.  This bill contains no earmarks, follows the process reforms established in the water resources bill two years ago, and maintains congressional oversight of Corps of Engineers’ work.  I commend my colleagues for their bipartisan work on this bill and look forward to moving ahead with this important legislation.”[7]

[1] U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Mission Overview.
[2] U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Regulatory Jurisdiction Overview.
[3] CRS: Army Corps of Engineers: Water Resource Authorizations, Appropriations, and Activities (Oct. 18, 2013) at 1.
[4] Id.
[5] Id. at 1-2.
[6] Id. at 2.
[7] See the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Press Release, May 25, 2016


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 5303 would cost about $970 million over the next five years and $3.1 billion over the 2017–2026 period, assuming appropriation of the authorized and necessary amounts. While CBO originally estimated that enacting the bill would increase net direct spending and on-budget deficits by more than $5 billion in at least one of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2027, that section was removed by the Rules Committee Print.

CBO estimates that implementing title IV would cost about $2.5 billion over the 2017–2026 period, assuming appropriation of the amounts estimated to be necessary and accounting for anticipated inflation. This title would authorize the Corps to construct 27 new projects and would modify the existing authorization of four projects; those projects would aim to improve the nation’s navigation system, strengthen flood-risk management, and restore the environment. Based on information from the Corps, CBO estimates that the total cost to complete those projects would be $10.5 billion. H.R. 5303 would authorize the appropriation of $5.7 billion to cover the federal share of those costs and nonfederal entities would be responsible for the remaining costs, totaling an estimated $4.8 billion.

CBO estimates that implementing the provisions described below would cost $434 million over the 2017–2026 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. Those provisions (and their federal costs) would:

  • Authorize the Corps to conduct about 30 feasibility studies for projects to reduce risks stemming from floods and hurricanes, to restore ecosystems, and to improve navigation ($50 million);
  • Direct the Corps to maintain the width and depth of certain commercial harbors at the same dimensions as they were originally constructed by the Corps ($100 million);
  • Authorize projects to restore fisheries and ecosystems on the Great Lakes ($100 million);
  • Require the Corps to report to the Congress about the volume and types of foreign materials purchased each year for civil works projects ($106 million); and
  • Direct the Corps to develop beneficial uses for dredge material, remove sediment from certain reservoirs, waive certain cost-share requirements for projects and studies for Indian Tribes, and maintain a database on the condition of federal breakwaters and jetties ($78 million).

H.R. 5303 would authorize the annual appropriation for five years of $35 million for the Estuary Habitat Restoration program and additional amounts necessary to account for cost increases caused by inflation. CBO estimates the appropriation of those amounts would cost $175 million over the 2017–2026 period.


  1. Bill Shuster (R-PA) – This amendment makes technical and clarifying revisions to H.R. 5303. Includes additional Chief’s Reports and Post Authorization Change Reports submitted by the Army Corps of Engineers since May 25, 2016.
  2. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) – This amendment includes gross negligence as an additional reason for obtaining funding following an emergency at a water resources development project.
  3. Brian Babin (R-TX) – This amendment defines parameters and sets guidelines for the scope of “work” under Section 408 review processes.
  4. Brian Babin (R-TX) – This amendment allows for channels which have been “assumed for maintenance” to be considered the same as “authorized” projects.
  5. Diane Black (R-TN) – This amendment directs the Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide guidance on the types of circumstances under which the state-of-the-art provision of the Dam Safety Assurance authority might apply to dam safety repair projects; for corps of engineers district offices to effectively communicate with sponsors to establish and implement cost sharing agreements during dam safety repair projects; and for the corps of engineers to communicate the estimated and final cost sharing amounts, executing agreements, with all cost sharing sponsors.
  6. Rod Blum (R-IA) – This amendment expedites the Cedar River project for flood risk management authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 2014.
  7. Mike Bost (R-IL) – This amendment authorizes the Corps to consider other potential benefits that may accrue due to rehabilitation of a nonfederal levee.
  8. Rick Crawford (R-AR) – This amendment clarifies the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to make project costs incurred and in-kind contributions made before receipt of the WIFIA loan to count toward the 51 percent of the project that must be financed by non-WIFIA dollars.
  9. Bob Dold (R-IL) – This amendment allows projects funded under section 506(c) of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 to include compatible recreation features, not to exceed 10 percent of the ecosystem restoration costs of the project.
  10. Garrett Graves (R-LA) – This amendment allows the non-federal interest to execute a project or project component when they determine that it can be done at lower cost and/or faster time. It directs 20% of money saved back to treasury, and the rest to other corps projects.
  11. Garrett Graves (R-LA) – This amendment provides criteria for application decisions pursuant to Section 408.
  12. Garrett Graves (R-LA) – This amendment expedites certain flood mitigation priority areas.
  13. Billy Long (R-MO) – This amendment lifts the Army Corps of Engineers’ moratorium on the issuance of dock permits for Table Rock Lake and delays the final rule for revising the Shoreline Management Plan. Extends the public comment period and requires a study on the permit fee structure for Table Rock Lake.
  14. David McKinley (R-WV) – This amendment requires the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the economic or recreational significance or impact of a lock at the national, State or local level.
  15. John Mica (R-FL) – This amendment allows the Secretary to adjust the Benefit Cost Ratio after any portion of the authorized project is completed by the Army Corps using non-federal funds.
  16. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) – This amendment transfers to the Department of the Interior land to be held in trust for the benefit of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, after the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has paid to the Army Corps of Engineers fair market value of the land transferred.
  17. David Rouzer (R-NC) – This amendment directs the Army Corps of Engineers to work with local officials to establish a no wake zone in federal navigation channels when certain criteria are met.
  18. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) – This amendment prohibits the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from removing privately owned cabins on privately owned land at Lake Kemp for an additional 5 years.
  19. Randy Weber (R-TX) – This amendment requires the Army Corps of Engineers to take into account existing studies and data developed by the Gulf Coast Community Protection and Recovery District when conducting the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Study.
  20. David Young (R-IA) – This amendment establishes policy for Corps levees that affect community-owned levees.
  21. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) – This amendment directs the Secretary to submit a report within one year of enactment on implementation of corrosion prevention activities under section 1033 of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (33 U.S.C. 2350).
  22. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) – This amendment amends section 4009(a) of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-121; 128 Stat. 1316) to direct the Secretary to conduct a comprehensive assessment and management plan to restore aquatic ecosystems within the coastal waters of the Northeastern United States from the State of Virginia to the State of Maine, including associated bays, estuaries, and critical riverine areas.
  23. Lois Frankel (D-FL) – This amendment provides local communities the option to seek foreign sand sources for shore protection projects.
  24. Al Green (D-TX) – This amendment allows the Secretary to give priority to flood control projects where (1) such project is already authorized and an executed partnership agreement exists; and (2) the project is in an area where loss of life has occurred to due to a flooding event.
  25. Herrera-Beutler (R-WA) – This amendment expands availability of funds for Watercraft Inspection Stations in northwest states. Clarifies that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can fund existing watercraft inspection stations.

Amendments under Rule II

  1. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) – This amendment directs the Secretary to coordinate with all Gulf States on developing an oyster bed recovery assessment for beds that were damaged due to Hurricane Katrina, Deepwater Horizon and recent floods, adopting a modified version of the Senate passed text.
  2. Rick Crawford (R-AR) – This amendment clarifies the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to make eligible alternative water delivery projects aimed at reducing aquifer depletion and makes a technical modification that ensures WIFIA financing arrangements take into account the total cost of the project.
  3. John Culberson (R-TX) – This amendment directs the Secretary to expedite the Brays Bayou flood mitigation project authorized by item 6 in section 211(f) of the Water Resources Development Act of 1996.
  4. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) – This amendment provides that no new start or new investment decision shall be required to initiate work on a separable element of an authorized project when contraction of one or more separable elements of that project was initiated previously; it shall be considered ongoing work and it should be considered continuation of the fully authorized project.
  5. Sam Johnson (R-TX) – This amendment requires the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to issue the final federal permit for the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir Project no later than September 30, 2017.
  6. Reid Ribble (R-WI) – This amendment provides that in carrying out the design, construction, maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation of water resources development projects, including flood risk reduction, coastal resiliency, and ecosystem restoration projects, the Secretary shall ensure that appropriate consideration is given to the use of natural and nature-based features.
  7. Hal Rogers (R-KY) – This amendment clarifies that requirements imposed on floating cabins used in the Cumberland River Basin cannot be different or more stringent than the requirements imposed on all recreational vessels authorized for use in the Basin.
  8. David Rouzer (R-NC) – This amendment directs the Army Corps of Engineers to work with state officials to establish a no wake zone in federal navigation channels when certain criteria are met.
  9. Grace Meng (D-NY) – This amendment allows the Army Corps of Engineers to pursue projects and technologies that prevent and mitigate flood damages associated with ice jams (chunks of ice floating on a river that catch on an obstruction such as a bridge piling, rocks, logs, etc., pile up to form an ice dam, and cause flooding upstream from the blockage, and then possibly downstream again when the ice finally releases).
  10. Gwen Moore (D-WI) – This amendment calls for the Army Corps to conduct a review of its tribal consultation policies and regulations. Provides that the Army Corps shall provide for public meetings with Indian tribes and other stakeholders and provide a report to Congress on the results of the review.
  11. Scott Peters (D-CA) – This amendment directs the Secretary to design and develop a structural health monitoring program to assess and improve the condition of infrastructure constructed and maintained by the Corps of Engineers, including research, design, and development of systems and frameworks for—response to flood and earthquake events; pre-disaster mitigation measures; lengthening the useful life of the infrastructure; and identifying risks due to sea level rise.
  12. Mike Quigley (D-IL) – This amendment expedites the completion of the project for flood control, Chicagoland Underflow Plan, Illinois, phase 2.
  13. Filemon Vela (D-TX) – This amendment directs the Secretary of the Army to release the interests of the United States in certain tracts of land located in Cameron County, Texas, and for other purposes.
  14. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) – This amendment makes permanent a set aside of Army Corps priority funding for the Great Lakes.
  15. David Joyce (R-OH) – This amendment amends the Clean Water Act to reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
  16. Jim Bridentstine (R-OK) – This amendment strengthens language requiring a feasibility study of Tulsa and West Tulsa levees. Prioritizes the project if study classifies levee or levee system Class I or Class II.
  17. Joe Courtney (D-CT) – This amendment removes a breakwater in Stonington, Conn. as a federally authorized project.
  18. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) – This amendment directs the Chief of Engineers to transfer the human remains commonly known as the Kennewick Man or the Ancient One to the Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation, on the condition that the Department disposes of the remains and repatriates the remains to the claimant tribes.
  19. Dan Kildee (D-MI) – This amendment authorizes the Secretary to provide additional assistance under section 219 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1992 for certain communities for the repair or replacement of public and private infrastructure in any State for which the President has declared an emergency under the Stafford Act as a result of the presence of chemical, physical, or biological constituents, including lead or other contaminants in the eligible system.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190