2018 Infrastructure Update: Congress is Diligently Working on a New Water Resources Bill

By:  Doreen M. Zankowski, Esq.

2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA):

Washington, D.C. – Senate and House Committees are diligently working on a new water resources bill to be filed in 2018 that would authorize federal funds for new Army Corps of Engineers flood protection, harbor and coastal dredging, and seaport improvement programs.  The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) over the past four years (2014 and 2016) has authorized $14.7 billion in spending for approximately 64 projects.  WRDA-2018 should have appropriations exceeding the 2016 authorization of $10.3 billion.  All of this falls in line with President Trump’s stated campaign promise to focus on infrastructure and rebuild America. If the Democrats and Republicans can work together on WRDA-2018, expect funding for at least six projects:  two in Texas, two in Florida, and one each in Hawaii and New York.  The most significant project of the six is a coastal storm protection and environmental restoration projects from Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay in Texas.  The project’s estimated cost is $3.3 billion. 

It should be noted that Senate panel working on WRDA was told at a hearing on Capitol Hill that the Army Corps of Engineers construction backlog is an estimated $96 billion, which is only for current needs and does not include any future requirements.  What does all this mean?  It means that Federal spending should rise in 2018 and 2019 for much-needed infrastructure projects in the United States. 

With the 2017 onslaught of extreme weather events — hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria, the U.S. Corps of Engineers is ready to take on flood control, stormwater management, and a host of other projects to bolster the cities and towns that are vulnerable to extreme weather events.  Additionally, with the emergence of the mega-tankers, ships that cannot navigate the majority of our Nation’s harbors and waterways, it is time to get real and dredge and expand these waterways and shipping ports to make America a factor in this critical industry sector.

Not only is Congress focused on water projects, but transportation, wastewater, energy and transmission, and enhancement of our seaports and airports should all benefit.  Where does the money come from?  Only a portion of the money comes from the Federal government.  By way of example, the Sabine Pass to Galveston, Texas project will have $2.16 of the $3.3 billion estimated design and construction costs come from Federal funds.  States and private investors will need to get savvy on how to fund the remainder of the projects that are necessary and clogging the pipeline.  Stay tuned for a series of blogs on new ways to fund infrastructure, and the critical needs of our Nation’s crumbling and economically debilitating infrastructure.  Please see this blogger’s recent post, “Pay to Play:  America’s Infrastructure Program 2018 and Beyond.”