Duckworth Secures Key Environmental Justice Provisions in 2022 Water Resources Bill
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — The U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022, which includes several provisions authored by U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)—Chair of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife as well as founding Co-Chair of the Senate’s first-ever Environmental Justice Caucus—aimed at bringing environmental justice to marginalized communities by supporting projects in economically disadvantages communities and lowering costs for major water infrastructure projects critical to Illinois and throughout the country. WRDA passed EPW unanimously in May and the package now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“With the Senate sending the Water Resources Development Act to the President’s desk to be signed into law, I’m proud of my work to secure provisions that will boost our economy, protect public health and create jobs through investments in our nation’s water infrastructure,” said Duckworth. “I was particularly proud that many of the provisions I led to address environmental injustice were included, making communities at the forefront of these climate change resiliency issues a priority. Every American has a right to clean drinking water, and this package will help us protect and expand that right.”
Duckworth’s environmental justice provisions in this year’s WRDA include:
- Establishing a federal advisory committee on environmental justice at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE): the first of its kind, this Committee will provide USACE with recommendations to ensure the effective delivery of water resources developments, projects, programs and other assistance to economically disadvantaged communities and Indian Tribes.
- Increasing the number of Corps of Engineers Projects in Rural and Economically Disadvantaged Communities: authorizes USACE to perform more projects in areas that would not normally qualify for major water infrastructure projects and lowers the cost-share of restoration projects that benefit economically disadvantaged communities.
- Rehabilitating non-federal pump stations: allows USACE to rehabilitate non-federal water pump stations if they are integral to the operation of USACE projects or for flood or coastal storm risk management, with a priority to disadvantaged communities like Cahokia Heights and East St. Louis.
- Allowing USACE to provide planning assistance to disadvantaged communities: instructs USACE to provide states planning assistance to help identify potential Corps projects with a priority for disadvantaged communities.
- Reducing cost share for restoration projects that benefit economically disadvantaged communities: lowers the non-federal cost share to 10 percent for flood protection and shoreline restoration projects that benefit economically disadvantaged communities.
- Enhancing workforce development: authorizes USACE to carry out workforce development programs in STEM and water infrastructure with a focus on diversity and outreach in disadvantaged communities.
Duckworth has long been committed to ensuring more Americans have safer air and water in their communities. The Senator introduced the Environmental Justice for All Act, sweeping legislation that would strengthen the Civil Rights Act by prohibiting discrimination based on disparate impacts and explicitly adds cumulative impacts in permitting decisions under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.
Earlier this year, several of her key environmental priorities became law in the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Omnibus appropriations package, including cleaning up hazardous waste sites and tackling contaminated properties by investing in the EPA’s Superfund program and brownfield grants and addressing the disproportionate impacts of pollution on communities of color and low-income communities by expanding funding for environmental justice programs at EPA.
Duckworth also led a subcommittee field hearing in Chicago on the implementation of her Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act (DWWIA) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Last year, President Biden signed the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal into law that included Duckworth’s entire DWWIA, which would help rebuild our nation’s crumbling and dangerous water infrastructure. As a result of her leadership, Illinois—which contains the most known lead service lines of any state in the nation—will be able to dramatically accelerate projects to remove dangerous lead pipes and protect countless children against permanent, irreversible brain damage from drinking lead-contaminated water.
Other important Duckworth provisions secured in this year’s WRDA include:
- Increasing the federal cost share of the Brandon Road Project to 90 percent federal and 10 percent non-federal: in WRDA 2020, the Senator secured the cost share change for this critical regional project to 80 percent federal and 20 percent non-federal, now the local match will decrease further to 10 percent
- Making the inland waterways cost share permanent: in WRDA 2020, the cost share for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund was changed to 65 percent federal and 35 percent non-federal and was set to expire in 2031; this bill will remove this expiration and make the cost share change permanent.
- Prioritizing Chicago shoreline storm damage reduction project: instructs the Corps to prioritize funding for the project and expedites the General Reevaluation Report (GRR) needed to expand the project and mitigate the significant impacts of climate change on the Chicago Shoreline.
- Creating Chicago Shoreline local match reduction: directs USACE to use the locally preferred plan and lowering the cost share of the remaining Chicago Shoreline projects, ensuring local input in these projects and saving Chicago an estimated $82 million.
- Creating shoreline resiliency authority for the Great Lakes: allows USACE to carry out projects for the protection and restoration of coastal shorelines and riverbanks, including non-structural and structural solutions.
- Increasing authorization levels for Madison and St. Clair Counties Section 219 Authority: increases environmental infrastructure project authority in the Metro East from $45 million to $100 million, which can benefit municipalities like Cahokia Heights.
- Expanding Cook County’s Section 219 authority and increased authorization: this expansion will include Lake County and increases the total projects authorization from $35 million to $100 million.
- Project Authorization for Fox River Restoration: assists non-Federal interests in carrying out environmental restoration in the Fox River.
- Project Authorization for the Village of Dixmoor: assists non-Federal interests in carrying out water-related resource protection and development projects.
- Increasing authorization for Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program (UMRR): increases funding authorization for UMRR from $45 million to $100 million and plays a vital role in promoting projects to improve the viability and vitality of the Upper Mississippi River System’s diverse and significant fish and wildlife resources.
- Requiring Chicago River Environmental Remediation project coordination: directs USACE to coordinate with EPA and regional and state authorities on toxics remediation to carry out the Bubbly Creek ecosystem restoration project on the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River in Illinois.
- Improving Advance Measures Assistance on the Great Lakes to reduce the risk of damage from rising water levels: prohibits USACE from denying advance measures assistance requests by states solely on the basis that the damage is caused by erosion and allows these measures to be built at full federal cost.
- Requiring priority completion of Great Lakes projects and Ecosystem Restoration projects: prioritizes projects in the Great Lakes region and funding for Ecosystem Restoration projects, through programs like 519 and NESP.
- Directing Upper Mississippi River and Illinois River water level management: instructs USACE to carry out water level management to assist in restoration of the ecosystem and damage caused by sedimentation.
- Authorizing the creation of a Great Lakes water levels model: instructs USACE to create a Great Lakes model suite to forecast water levels and water level variability and account for the impacts of extreme weather events on the Great Lakes.
- Expediting the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study: instructs USACE to expedite the completion of the resiliency study of the Great Lakes region.
- Authorizing an Upper Mississippi River harmful algal bloom demonstration program: adds the Upper Mississippi River to the demonstration program performing research in these areas to develop and demonstrate a scalable capability to remove algae, algae nutrients and potential algal toxins from large bodies of water.
- Auditing joint costs for Operations and Maintenance: requires the Comptroller General to generate a report regarding the practices of the Corps with respect to the determination of joint costs associated with the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) of reservoirs owned and operated by the Agency. This is a common issue regarding costs of O&M for projects in Illinois.
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