May 22, 2018

Cardin, Van Hollen Secure Victories for Marylanders as Water Infrastructure Bill Emerges Unanimously from Committee

Maryland senators spotlight new programs to strengthen stormwater, wastewater and drinking water treatment capabilities, help communities rebuild resilient infrastructure following flooding   

Bill also includes major support for Chesapeake Bay restoration priorities

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.), members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), together underscored the importance to Maryland communities of new legislation enabling much-needed improvements to our nation’s water infrastructure that today was approved unanimously by the committee and heads next to the full Senate for consideration.

The EPW-approved version of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which was introduced by the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Subcommittee ranking member Senator Cardin, EPW chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), committee ranking member Tom Carper (D-Del.), and T&I subcommittee chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), supports our nation’s economic competitiveness, provides protections from dangerous floodwaters, deepens nationally significant ports and maintains the navigability of inland waterways across the country. The bipartisan legislation also will repair aging drinking water, wastewater and irrigation systems and contains significant additional resources for Maryland priorities.

“This bill will enable our state and nation to improve the strength, safety and resiliency of our water infrastructure. It also will enable the Army Corps of Engineers to continue its multi-faceted mission that ensures that Maryland’s ports remain navigable and major Chesapeake Bay restoration initiatives like those underway at Poplar, James and Barren islands are completed. It also will help communities like Frederick where the water treatment facilities have been overwhelmed by recent flooding,” said Senator Cardin. “This bipartisan measure is rooted in the understanding that water is one of our most precious resources, and delivering past-due investments like these in the proper treatment of stormwater, wastewater and drinking water are among the most important responsibilities of our government.”

“Modernizing our infrastructure is crucial to the success of Maryland and our country’s economy. From projects at Poplar Island and the Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island to those that help communities in Western Maryland manage floodwater, this bipartisan legislation secures important investments across our state that will continue to ensure Maryland is moving forward,” said Senator Van Hollen, a cosponsor of this legislation. “I will continue to fight for efforts that support Maryland’s infrastructure and economy.”

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Van Hollen has worked to deliver the approved funding for Army Corps projects, ranging from dredging of the Baltimore Harbor and Knapps Narrows to beach replenishment in Ocean City. This bill continues authorization of key Army Corps projects in Maryland and ensures more transparency in the process so that the Appropriations Committee can target resources more appropriately.

Senators Cardin and Van Hollen fought for the following provisions of particular note to Marylanders. America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 would:

  • Create $25 million in new EPA grants through a Water Infrastructure and Sustainability Program to rebuild and strengthen the resiliency of local infrastructure after floods and other hydrologic changes caused by climate change.
  • Reject the Trump administration’s proposed reclassification of the Poplar Island restoration project, which could imperil the progress of this national model for restoration success located in Talbot County.
  • Extend the original seven-year authorization of the Mid-Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration Project, focused on James and Barren Islands in Dorchester County, by an additional three years, to total 10 years.
  • Encourage Army Corps leadership to expediently complete a feasibility study of stream and wetland restoration projects in the Anacostia River watershed in Prince George's County.

The new legislation includes improvements, fought for by Senators Cardin and Van Hollen, to the Army Corps decision-making process on project funding that better considers the economic value of small, dockside businesses that cater to the recreation and tourism economies. Important throughout Maryland, these businesses currently have no process by which to appeal the Corps’ benefit-to-cost ratio (BCR) findings in cases when they feel their values have been overlooked. The America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 will create an appeals process by which a local community can appeal the BCR calculation in order to show these missed benefits and ask that they be included.

The new legislation includes S. 1137, the Clean, Safe, Reliable Water Infrastructure Act, introduced by Senator Cardin and Senators Boozman (R-Ark.), Inhofe and Duckworth (D-Ill.), which addresses the need to invest in our nation’s drinking water, sewer, and stormwater systems, and to provide for increased water efficiency. It specifically includes funding to protect the sources of our drinking water and $225 million per year to repair and eliminate combined sewer overflows, which dump raw sewage into our nation’s waterways every time it rains.

And the new legislation includes S. 692, The Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, introduced by Senator Cardin and Senators Fischer (R-Ark.) and Brown (D-Ohio), which addresses affordability issues that are so important in cities like Baltimore. The bill also addresses integrated planning and boosting green infrastructure, while promoting more localized control.

The new legislation also includes S. 451, the Water Resources Research Amendments Act, introduced by Senator Cardin and Senator Boozman, which addresses the need for additional research into increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of new and existing water treatment works.

In addition, the new legislation addresses the need for information about onsite waste water recycling as one alternative for communities that cannot afford the up-front costs or maintenance costs of traditional wastewater infrastructure.

The new legislation also creates a multiagency federal task force to study the problem of funding and financing stormwater infrastructure. The task force will, with feedback from permittees, state and local governments, and other program stakeholders, provide in a report to Congress suggestions for improving the funding and financing of stormwater systems – especially important as stormwater pollution is the fastest-growing contributor to nitrogen and phosphorous in the Chesapeake Bay. 

Nationally, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 also would:

 

  • Assist local communities in complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act in upgrading aging drinking water, wastewater and irrigation systems
  • Reduce flooding risks for rural, western, and coastal communities
  • Ensure that America maintains the competitiveness of our coastal and inland ports, and maintain the navigability of our inland waterways
  • Create a new framework to allow for more Corps projects to be budgeted at the regional and local level, with local stakeholder input, as opposed to only the national level
  • Authorize or reauthorize important water infrastructure programs and projects that benefit the entire country
  • Address significant water infrastructure needs in tribal communities

 

Read the text of the bill here.

Read the section-by-section of the bill here.