U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today announced Senate passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which provides critical flood protection for communities across the country and maintains the flow of commerce. Infrastructure improvement projects created by WRDA are expected to create up to 500,000 new jobs nationwide.
"This bill is a jobs bill," Senator Mikulski said. "This federal investment in the lives and livelihoods of those who depend on clean and open waterways will keep businesses open and keep Marylanders working. I will continue to fight to keep the Port of Baltimore and Maryland's waterways a priority in the federal checkbook."
Senator Mikulski fought for key provisions in the bill, including:
· Authority for the Corps to continue work on the Poplar Island environmental restoration project, which is taking clean dredged materials from the shipping lanes leading to the Port of Baltimore and using it to stabilize the shoreline, create habitat areas, and restore the wetlands of one of the Chesapeake Bay's most valuable island ecosystems.
· Requiring the Corps to maintain the West Dundalk and West Seagirt channels at their new depths to accommodate mega ships calling on the Port with the Panama Canal expansion. The Port of Baltimore is a major economic engine for America and Maryland, supporting more than 50,000 jobs across the state -- including 14,630 direct jobs. Among U.S. ports, Baltimore receives the top rank for handling roll on/roll off cargo, trucks, imported forest products, and imported gypsum and sugar. It is also the largest automobile exporter and importer in the country.
· Establishing state levee safety grant programs, which will help counties, including Prince George's County, bring levees built by the Army Corps of Engineers up to code and better protect homes and businesses.
· Establishing the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA), a five year pilot for financing Corps and EPA projects. This new authority will provide loan and loan guarantees to states and local governments for flood control, water supply and wastewater projects. WIFIA will fund projects too big for EPA State Revolving Fund financing, costing more than $20 million.
Senator Mikulski also fought against an amendment that would block an additional 15-year extension of federal support for beach replenishment programs, including the Atlantic Coast of Maryland Storm Protection Project. This project protects residents, small businesses and the tourist economies of Ocean City, Worcester County and Eastern Shore communities by helping prevent coastal flooding and erosion. Since its completion, the project has repeatedly demonstrated its value by preventing more than $240 million in damages. Most recently, this project successfully protected the residents of Ocean City and Worcester County from Super Storm Sandy. The project protected billions of dollars in public and private infrastructure and jobs.