U.S. Sen. David Vitter today was able to get the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) agreed to in the U.S. Senate with a vote of 83 to 14.
"WRDA is one of the single most significant pieces of legislation for Louisiana that we'll vote on this year," Vitter said. "We have the opportunity to reform the Corps of Engineers, streamline flood protection projects, finally get Morganza moving and improve our waterways and infrastructure all in one bill. This is a huge benefit to our state."
WRDA, S. 601, was unanimously approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on March 20, 2013. Vitter is the top Republican on the Committee and the lead sponsor along with Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif).
WRDA provides critical flood protection for communities across the country and particularly in Louisiana. Projects like the Morganza to the Gulf and Louisiana Coastal System Ecosystem Restoration Projects will all be able to get authorization under this bill.
It includes project acceleration provisions that ensure important water infrastructure projects are processed in an efficient manner and also makes reforms to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Projects like the studies for the West Shore Hurricane Protection and Southwest Hurricane Protection will be accelerated by WRDA 2013. The legislation is estimated to create up to 500,000 new jobs nationwide.
Below are some of the specific provisions in WRDA that will benefit Louisiana:
* Provides for increased expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to dredge all Mississippi River and Calcasieu River ports and waterways to their constructed width and depth.
* Provides authority for the Corps to perform future levee lifts on the Greater New Orleans Hurricane Protection System.
* Provides a new innovative water resources financing mechanism for communities to receive federal loans to construct critical water and wastewater facilities. This is important to all Louisiana parishes.
* Provides authority for the Corps to use the State Master Plan in-lieu of the Comprehensive Plan authorized under WRDA 07, as well as directing mitigation for Corps projects to high-priority ecosystem projects identified in the Mater Plan.
* Makes it easier for non-Federal levees to be eligible for repair and rehabilitation.
* Requires the Corps to review levee vegetation policy and provide for regional and watershed variances.
* Creates a pilot program aimed at eliminating red tape and expediting backlogged Corps projects by delegating more project management responsibility to state and local governments.
WRDA still awaits consideration and approval in the U.S. House of Representatives.