Water Resources Development Act Passes House, Includes Huffman-Led Wins for Northern California
Last night, the House of Representatives passed the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) of 2022, including key North Coast and environmental priorities authored by Representative Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael). This legislation provides authority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to carry out water resources development projects and studies, as well as reforms and policy direction to the Corps for implementation of its civil works missions.
“This week’s bipartisan vote was another step forward in my commitment to making smart investments in our nation’s water infrastructure. Comprehensive funding and modernization of the Army Corps’ work at our ports, harbors, reservoirs, and waterways is necessary to bolster our economy and protect communities from the increasing threats of climate change,” said Rep. Huffman. “The provisions in this year’s WRDA will go a long way in addressing the long-term resiliency of our water projects while creating jobs and stimulating the economy, especially for coastal communities like many in my northern California district. I’m glad to have been able to deliver so many significant wins for our region. From increased use of dredge material for wetland restoration in San Pablo Bay, to improving water storage in Lake Mendocino, to directing collaborative engagement with local ports to expedite maintenance dredging, to providing over $90 million dollars for priority water infrastructure projects, this year’s WRDA is great news for our district.”
The legislation included numerous provisions Rep. Huffman promoted, including:
- A study to evaluate site opportunities for the beneficial reuse of dredge material for the City of Petaluma’s tidal wetland located adjacent to the City’s temporary dredge spoils site.
- A broad study to assess the economic, environmental, and technical feasibility for the deployment and implement of floating solar panels on Army Corps managed reservoirs, infrastructure, and other and facilities.
- The adoption of an amendment prioritizing the beneficial use of dredge material to areas experiencing and vulnerable to land loss from coastal subsidence or sea level rise.
- Report language directing the Army Corps to coordinate dredging needs in the San Francisco Bay Area by collectively working with regional ports and identifying possible alternative delivery models that could include public-private partnerships to facilitate more frequent and efficient maintenance dredging.
- Report language directing the Army Corps to issue a report to the Committee on the updates to the Long-Term Management Strategy for the Placement of Dredged Material in the San Francisco Bay for the beneficial use of dredged material program, to ensure accountability with the congressional directive to prioritize beneficial reuse.
Rep. Huffman’s requests for funding for local environmental infrastructure projects were also included in the package. Members were limited to five requests per district:
- Healdsburg Aquifer Storage and Recovery Wells
City of Healdsburg
This project would aid in the design and installation of up to three Aquifer Storage and Recover (ASR) wells to store up to 490 acre-feet of water for use during droughts.
- Healdsburg Mitigation of Drought through Recycled Water Offsets
City of Healdsburg
The project would construct a 4.5-mile distribution network to deliver recycled water from the treatment facility to municipal users — parks, schools, athletic fields, cemetery, etc. — offsetting approximately 40 million gallons of potable water.
- Marin Strategic Water Supply Assessment
Marin Municipal Water District
The assessment would identify options and inform local decisions on water supply enhancement to enhance regional water resiliency within Marin and the North Bay more broadly.
- Petaluma Recycled Water Expansion
City of Petaluma
The Recycled Water Expansion project would include Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility (ECWRF) Treatment Capacity Increase, Maria Drive Urban Pipeline Expansion, and Adobe Road Agriculture Pipeline Expansion.
- Tolowa Wastewater Infrastructure Improvements
Tolowa Dee-Ni’ Nation
This project would replace wastewater infrastructure serving 150 low-income households in a mobile home park that was purchased by the Nation.
As the WRDA process continues, Rep. Huffman will continue to work to ensure that local authorized Army Corps projects are expediated, including:
- Coyote Valley Dam
Rep. Huffman previously worked to revive the authorization for a feasibility study for raising Coyote Valley Dam to improve flood control as well as water conservation and supply.
- Hamilton Wetlands Restoration Project — Phase 2 Bel Marin Keys
The project will restore seasonal and tidal wetland habitats and to reduce open water dredged material disposal through beneficial use. It has not received the necessary federal funding for completion.
- Resilient San Francisco Bay Beneficial Use Pilot Project
Would expedite the completion of construction for the Resilient San Francisco Bay Pilot Project. This project includes direct placement of dredged sediment from federal navigation channels in San Francisco Bay to subsided wetland restoration sites, including Bel Marin Keys.
- Forecast Informed Reservoir Operation, Phase 3
Would expedite the completion of the Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) in updating water control manuals and Corps regulations to allow for flexible water reservoir management based on weather forecasting. Would also authorize the study of an expanded and more complex systems.
“Now, more than ever, is the time to meet the challenges of climate change as a region,” said Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barrett. “We are grateful for Congressman Huffman’s steadfast vision and leadership to help us ensure resiliency of our precious water resources. Not only will this aid Petaluma’s expanded production and distribution of high-quality recycled water, but will allow us to continue to protect and enhance the Petaluma River marsh ecosystem.”
“We are excited about the prospect of upgrading the wastewater system that serves 150 families living at the Howonquet Village and Resort and appreciate Congressman Huffman’s leadership on this issue and long-time support for Nation priorities. We are especially excited about this wastewater project, as this is the site of the Tolowa ancestral Village of Xaa-wan’-k’wvt,” said Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation Tribal Council Chairperson Jeri Lynn Thompson.
“Last year, Marin Water faced a drought of historic proportions. Our reservoir storage dropped to levels we had not seen in decades, and we put out an urgent call to our 191,000 customers to save water through conservation measures. Although winter rains helped move us past our immediate local water shortage emergency, we cannot rely solely on local rainfall as we anticipate continued climate-driven drought conditions into the future. We are pursuing a Strategic Water Supply Assessment to address our water supply vulnerabilities, and we will work with our local, state, and federal partners to enhance regional water resiliency within the North Bay. We are deeply grateful for Congressman Huffman’s continued leadership on behalf of Marin Water in our pursuit of a sustainable and affordable supply, and we are pleased that the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee agreed today to help support our community’s water infrastructure needs in the face of a changing climate,” said Larry Russell, Marin Water’s President of the Board of Directors.
Congress has also successfully enacted four consecutive bipartisan WRDAs in 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020. More information on WRDA 2022, including bill text, can be found here.