House Amendment to S. 612, Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, or the “WIIN Act”

H.Amdt. S. 612

Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, or the “WIIN Act”

Sponsor
Sen. John Thune

Date
December 8, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Jake Vreeburg

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, December 7, 2016, the House will begin consideration of the House Amendment to S. 612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, under a closed rule. S. 612 was introduced on February 27, 2015, by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), to designate the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 1300 Victoria Street in Laredo, Texas, as the “George P. Kazen Federal Building and United States Courthouse” and was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The bill passed the Senate on May 25, 2015 by unanimous consent. S. 612 was referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The Rules Committee Print strikes all after enacting clause and inserts the text of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, as recently negotiated between the House and Senate.

Bill Summary

The Rules Committee Print addresses the needs of America’s harbors, locks, dams, flood protection, and other water resources infrastructure. The measure includes the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, which passed the House in September, in addition to provisions to improve drinking water infrastructure, address control of coal combustion residuals, improve water storage and delivery to drought-stricken communities, address federal dam maintenance backlogs, and approve longstanding water settlement agreements.

Title I: Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

  • Restores certainty to the WRDA process by returning to the two-year cycle of Congressional consideration.
  • Authorizes $10 billion in investment in ports, channels, locks, dams, and other infrastructure that supports the maritime and waterways transportation system and provides flood protection for communities, and authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Reports for water resources infrastructure investment.
  • Strengthens the process for greater local participation in project selection, and empowers non-federal participation in construction and operation and maintenance activities.
  • Requires timely approval for non-federal modifications to Corps of Engineers projects
  • Fully offsets any new authorizations, reduces the inventory of projects, and sheds excess property that is no longer needed

Title II: Water and Waste Act of 2016

  • Empowers small and economically disadvantaged communities to improve their drinking water services, and equips communities to reduce concentrations of lead in drinking water
  • Empowers states by providing flexibility to incorporate underserved communities into drinking water systems, and aids smaller, lower-income communities in water quality testing and compliance
  • Authorizes $170 million (fully offset) for drinking water disaster relief, infrastructure investments and public health responses
  • Requires all public water systems to notify customers if federal drinking water lead levels are exceeded (Similar to HR 4470, which passed the House 416-2)
  • Creates a voluntary program for testing for lead in school and childcare center drinking water
  • Creates a clearinghouse of public information on the cost-effectiveness of alternative drinking water delivery systems
  • Authorizes research on innovative water technologies
  • Establishes state and EPA permit programs for coal combustion residuals and provides states the flexibility for states to develop incorporate the EPA final rule or develop other criteria that are at least as protective as the final rule

 

 

Title III: Natural Resources

  • Expedites water storage and delivery and alternative water supply programs in the West to support drought-stricken communities
  • Provides regulatory flexibility to capture more water in existing reservoirs during the wet months in California without changing the Endangered Species Act
  • Authorizes a non-regulatory program for watersheds in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania
  • Enhances environmental restoration and forest management activities in the Lake Tahoe Basin and improves initiatives to benefit fish and wildlife in the Great Lakes
  • Limits the increase of permit fees for cabins and trailers on certain Bureau of Reclamation lands and enhances recreational opportunities in the Lake Tahoe Basin
  • Improves flood mitigation and dam safety needs for Indian communities
  • Settles water rights disputes with the Pechanga Tribe, the Choctaw Nation, the Chickasaw Nation, and the Blackfeet Tribe.

A full section-by-section can be found here.

Background

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 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.

In April 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan changed its water source from water provided by the Detroit water system to water treated by Flint and sourced through the Flint River. This issue has received significant public attention in recent months as reports indicated residents began complaining that water looked dirty, tasted bad, and was causing rashes.[7] According to reports, by the fall of 2015, the number of children with above-average levels of lead in their blood doubled.[8] On December 15, 2015, the Mayor of Flint declared a state of emergency, and on January 5, 2016, the Governor declared a state of emergency for the Flint area and surrounding county.[9] On January 16, 2016 President Obama signed an emergency declaration ordering federal assistance to support state and local response efforts in Flint.[10] The city has since reverted to using treated water from Detroit, but testing still reveals elevated levels of lead in Flint’s water due to corrosion damage in piping.[11]

The Environmental Protection Agency is the primary federal agency charged with ensuring Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live and work.[12] Federal drinking water regulations apply to the approximately 152,700 privately and publicly owned water systems that provide piped water for human consumption to at least 15 service connections or that regularly serve at least 25 people. These water systems vary greatly in size and type, ranging from large municipal systems to homeowner associations, schools, and campgrounds.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) establishes standards and treatment requirements for public water supplies, promotes compliance capacity of public water systems, directs EPA to provide technical assistance to water systems, as well as protect sources of drinking water. Congress has amended the SDWA on 11 occasions since its original enactment in 1974. In 1988 Congress amended the Act with the Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-572). Provisions within the Act were intended to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water by requiring the recall of lead-lined water coolers and requiring the EPA to issue a guidance document and testing protocol for states to help schools and day care centers identify and correct lead contamination in school drinking water. [13]

The SDWA requires the EPA to promulgate national primary drinking water regulations for contaminants that may pose health risks and are likely to be present in public water supplies. The EPA has issued regulations for more than 90 water contaminants, including regulations setting standards or treatment techniques for drinking water disinfectants and their byproducts, microorganisms (e.g., Cryptosporidium and Legionella), radionuclides, organic chemicals (e.g., benzene and many pesticides), and inorganic chemicals (e.g., arsenic and lead).[14]

The SDWA created a federal-state arrangement in which states may be delegated primary implementation and enforcement authority (primacy) for the drinking water program and the underground injection control (UIC) program. The state-administered Public Water Supply Supervision (PWSS) Program remains the basic program for regulating the nation’s public water systems, and 49 states have assumed this authority, including Michigan.[15]

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[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 Committee on Energy and Commerce letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy January 15, 2016
[8] See Washington Post article “This is how toxic Flint’s water really is” January 15, 2015
[9] See Committee on Energy and Commerce letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy January 15, 2016
[10] See EPA’s “Flint Drinking Water Response”
[11] Id.
[12] See EPA’s “Our Mission and What We Do”
[13] See CRS Report “Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA): A Summary of the Act and its Major Requirements,” January 6, 2016.
[14] Id.
[15] Id.

Cost

An official Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate for the Rules Committee Print is not currently available.

However, CBO previously estimated that implementing H.R. 5303, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 would cost $2.8 billion over the 2017-2021 period and $6.3 billion over the 2017-2026 period. In addition, CBO previously estimated enacting H.R. 4470 triggers no direct spending, no new revenues, and discretionary spending levels scored at less than $500,000.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-1828.