U.S. Senate passes the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA), or water resource bill, which includes provisions that are important for improving the health of America’s national parks.
BACKGROUND: Today, the U.S. Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA), or water resource bill, which includes provisions that are important for improving the health of America’s national parks. If enacted, the legislation would enable key projects to move forward, including developing, maintaining and restoring the nation’s vital water infrastructure and restoration projects that are critical for our national parks. The legislation must now pass the House of Representatives before being signed into law.
Historically, water resource bills have passed every couple of years. However, over the last 16 years, they have only passed three times. Through the Senate’s action today, WRDA moves back to a more regular schedule and will hopefully continue to in the future.
Our National Park System includes 88 coastal parks that cover more than 11,000 miles of shoreline and 2.5 million acres of ocean and Great Lakes’ waters. This represents around 10 percent of all U.S. shorelines as diverse as lakeshores, kelp forests, glaciers, wetlands, beaches, estuaries and coral reefs. Our coastal parks attract more than 86 million visitors annually and generate more than $4.8 billion in economic benefits to local economies.
Statement by Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association
“The Senate’s Water Resources Development Act is key to ensuring water quality, improving water infrastructure and moving forward critical restoration projects around the country. Given its importance, it is astounding that Congress has only passed it three times since 2000 instead of every two years, as it has been historically. So we are especially pleased to see the Senate take up and pass this bill, which includes so many key national park projects like Everglades restoration, additional funding for Great Lakes restoration and oyster recovery in the Chesapeake Bay. We challenge the House to do the same so work can begin on projects in and around national parks that have now been lingering for years.”
Critical national park projects include:
Everglades Restoration - WRDA authorizes several key Everglades restoration projects including the Picayune Strand Restoration Project and the Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). CEPP improves the quantity, quality, timing and distribution for sending more water south from Florida’s northern estuaries to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. CEPP accelerates implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which seeks to bring back some of the historic “River of Grass” flow that has been lost, and restore iconic wetlands and other habitat unique to America’s Everglades.
Modification for Picayune Strand Restoration Project - WRDA approves funding for new, more protective levee standards. This will allow the project to move forward to restore more than 55,000 acres of natural habitat in the western Everglades.
Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration - will increase the authorization level of funding for Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration, a critical undertaking to meet water quality and habitat restoration goals for the bay.
Coastal Risk Reduction - Nature-based solutions are often the best option for reducing and combatting the growing threat of climate change on our nation’s coastlines. Wetlands, tidal marshes, barrier islands and other natural barriers can more cost effectively absorb flood waters from storms and protect shoreline communities from rising sea levels in places like the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Miami. WRDA requires the Army Corps to consider these features when developing projects for coastal risk reduction.
Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Infrastructure - WRDA promotes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an important federal funding source established to restore the Great Lakes and improve water quality to the more than 30 million Americans that depend on the lakes for their drinking water and the 13 national park sites located in the watershed. It also authorizes the Long Island Sound Restoration Program, which will help ensure significant strides to restore and protect Long Island Sound, prioritizing habitat restoration and water quality monitoring. It also includes the Delaware River Restoration Program, which will develop a coordinated basin-wide strategy to identify, prioritize and implement restoration and protection programs. In addition, a $5 million competitive grant and technical assistance program will also be established to support restoration projects, resulting in cleaner water for people and national parks in the Delaware River Basin. The water resources bill includes needed investments to improve drinking water and sewer infrastructure by modernizing the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan programs, reauthorizing funds to control sewer overflows, provide assistance to test for lead in schools and childcare centers, replace lead service lines and support emergency infrastructure needs in frontline communities like Flint, Michigan.
About National Parks Conservation Association Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.