U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) successfully amended The Water Resources Development Act, which passed the Senate today by a vote of 83-14, to resolve issues specific to three important Virginia water projects. One amendment facilitates additional progress on the Virginia Port Authority's multi-year efforts to develop a marine terminal at Craney Island. A second Warner-Kaine amendment provides a technical correction that will promote efforts to restore Four Mile Run in Northern Virginia as a recreational resource. The third Warner-Kaine amendment increases authorized funding for oyster restoration to $70 million and allows conservation projects that benefit oyster restoration efforts to qualify for an Army Corps of Engineers recovery project.
"This bipartisan bill provides common-sense fixes to allow progress to continue on these two important projects," Sen. Warner said. "By conveying authority over certain parts of Craney Island to the Virginia Port Authority, our amendment removes some of the red tape that has hindered a project that is vital to Virginia's economic development. I am pleased we also were successful in updating an outdated regulation that prevented the Four Mile Run project from moving forward into a recreational and ecological resource for Northern Virginia. Our third amendment could provide meaningful opportunities to broaden efforts to replenish oyster stocks."
"I'm pleased we've passed this important legislation that is good for the country and will boost essential Virginia priorities. This bill will advance a project of critical importance for the Virginia Port Authority, improve oyster restoration and fix one of the barriers to restoring a Northern Virginia trail," said Sen. Kaine. "The bipartisan support for this bill and these projects should encourage us to find common ground on the upcoming challenges we face like passing comprehensive immigration reform."
The Craney Island amendment provides for authorization for the Secretary of the Army to convey certain areas of Portsmouth's Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area (CIDMMA) to the Virginia Port Authority (VPA). Currently, the CIDMMA is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), including construction of the Craney Island Eastward Expansion authorized by the 2007 version of the WRDA. Presently the VPA, in partnership with the USACE, is engaged in a multi-year project to develop a 600-acre site on the east side of Craney Island that will be the footprint to Craney Island Marine Terminal, which will be Virginia's fourth state-owned marine terminal. "The VPA wants to recognize the effort of the senators for their leadership in facilitating the next step for the eastward expansion of Craney Island," said Rodney W. Oliver, the VPA's interim executive director. "Their work in securing this land transfer will provide future capacity to handle seaborne cargo at The Port of Virginia."
The Four Mile Run amendment makes a technical fix to Northern Virginia's Four Mile Run flood protection project authorization. The Four Mile Run is a hidden asset for the region that, running from Falls Church through Arlington County and into Alexandria, was once a center of recreation and commerce until a flood control project in the 1970's made it less attractive for those purposes. Since 2003, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria have been working with the USACE to restore the Four Mile Run for recreational use. The amendment updates the flow rate for the project from a standard of 27,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) set in 1974 to a more appropriate level of 18,000 cfs that would provide 100-year flood plain protection while permitting the Four Mile Run restoration project to move forward.
The Oyster Restoration amendment raises the authorized funding level for oyster restoration from $50 million to $70 million. It also specifies that conservation projects adjacent to -- or close to -- oyster restoration sites could qualify as non-federal cost share for a Corps oyster recovery project if these projects provide water quality benefits that help oyster restoration efforts. This expands the activities eligible for non-federal cost share of oyster restoration, making it easier for localities or conservation groups to participate in these important projects.