WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, today released the following statement upon the committee’s markup of S. 3591, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020, and S. 3590, the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020.
“The legislation commonly known as WRDA is hugely important for Marylanders – and the health of our economy and our environment. It matters greatly to the Port of Baltimore, which plays a key role in the economic competitiveness of our home state and the country. Similarly, the Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure whose ecosystems and landscapes are central to our identity and livelihood. But it continues to face serious challenges from environmental degradation and climate change that must be addressed. I am pleased that this legislation takes steps to address many of these concerns.
“We all need clean, safe water during good times and emergencies. As a country, we must better prepare our water systems for the increasing instances of more frequent and severe floods, record-setting rainfall, wildfires and other natural disasters ahead, as well as slow-onset events such as sea-level rise. This bipartisan legislation takes important steps toward shoring up America’s aging water infrastructure against the costly threat of climate change.
“The legislation includes $10 million for each of the next five years to create an EPA program to help communities strengthen the resiliency of their publicly owned treatment works against the threats of natural hazards. The measure also reauthorizes and expands the Drinking Water Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability program at $5 million annually. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis for activities to increase resiliency or sustainability, such as water conservation, water use efficiency, watershed protection, and modification or relocation.
“The legislation includes other vitally important provisions for Maryland, such as increasing the authorization of appropriations for the Army Corps Chesapeake Bay restoration program and increasing the cap on project costs to $15 million, an important measure for enabling ecosystem-scale restoration initiatives. The legislation authorizes the construction of the Anacostia Watershed Restoration project in Prince George’s County. And it takes steps to expand opportunities to use natural infrastructure and the beneficial use of dredged material. This means that sediment dredged to maintain our navigation channels will not always end up as a waste product, but can help restore ecosystems and rebuild wetlands — an idea that has been put into practice successfully on Poplar Island.
“Lastly, I want to underscore an aspect of the legislation that could be especially helpful to Marylanders. Senator Capito and I have worked to shape a new grant program dedicated to helping rural drinking water systems receive funding for technical assistance, along with mapping and planning activities. This will aid the efforts of small and disadvantaged facilities to elevate the performance of rural treatment systems that are aging or insufficient.
“My colleagues and I have worked diligently in a bipartisan fashion to craft this WRDA legislation for maximum benefit to America’s communities, and I look forward to continuing to work toward its enactment.”