WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today voted for Senate passage of bipartisan water infrastructure legislation that includes provisions they developed to authorize federal resources for improving waterways, flood control and other projects in Mississippi.
The Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (S.2848 or WRDA) would authorize U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects throughout the country including navigational improvements, flood control, ecosystem restoration and clean water infrastructure. The bill was passed 95-3.
“This legislation is important to the well-being of our state and the entire nation. Army Corps of Engineers activities in Mississippi benefit affect our economy and the safety of our citizens. I’m pleased that this positive and bipartisan bill will extend and expand the ability of the Army Corps to continue this good work,” Cochran said.
“Federal investments in our nation’s water projects pay enormous dividends,” Wicker said. “Better ports and harbors help businesses and workers stay competitive and keep prices down for consumers. Strengthening dams and levees protect our communities from flooding and can help safeguard critical fishing, shrimping, and oyster grounds. Upgrades to local infrastructure give people the confidence to know that they are drinking safe, clean water. This bipartisan legislation attempts to achieve all of those goals by clearing a backlog of critical projects.”
Wicker serves on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which wrote WRDA. Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, serves on the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Army Corps of Engineers and programs authorized in WRDA.
For Mississippi, the Senators concentrated on provisions to expand the ability of the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to work with state and local officials to improve flood control, inland ports, wastewater infrastructure, conservation, and coastal resilience.
Cochran and Wicker worked to include the following provisions of importance to Mississippi in the Senate-passed legislation:
· Directing the Army Corps to expedite its review of the draft “Integrated Feasibility and Environmental Impact Statement, Pearl River Watershed, Rankin and Hinds Counties MS,” a locally developed flood damage reduction plan designed to provide a permanent solution to Pearl River flooding which continues to pose and imminent threat to the Jackson Metropolitan Area;
· Expanding the Delta Headwaters Project authorization to encompass the entire Yazoo Basin foot hills region, well beyond the 16 small watersheds now authorized. This will allow the Army Corps to work in any watershed within a 15-county area: Holmes, Carroll, Montgomery, Webster, Chickasaw, Calhoun, Grenada, Tallahatchie, Yalobusha, Panola, Lafayette, Tate, DeSoto, Marshall, and Benton;
· Dredging shallow draft ports located on the Mississippi River, such as Natchez, Rosedale, Greenville, Claiborne County, and Vicksburg;
· Authorizing the Army Corps to conduct regional assessments of coastal vulnerabilities and opportunities to increase ocean and coastal ecosystem resilience, which could include shoreline and tidal marsh restoration;
· Increasing the funding authorization for needed environmental infrastructure projects, such as ongoing regional wastewater improvement project in DeSoto County;
· Creating a Gulf Coast Oyster Bed Recovery Plan to address long-term damage to oyster beds caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and floods in 2011 and 2016;
· Updating the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund by highlighting targets for increased funding, extending prioritization for donor and energy transfer ports and emerging harbors, and clarifying that the Corps can maintain harbors of refuge;
· Providing technical assistance for small communities who often lack the resources to comply with and complete the necessary applications to access federal wastewater funding programs.