Press Release Dec 10, 2016

Congress Passes Water Resources Bill; Will Benefit National Park Waterways and Restoration Projects Across the Country

Water resources bill enables projects that develop, maintain and revitalize restoration projects critical to improving the health of America’s national parks.

BACKGROUND: Today, after last minute negotiations and political maneuvering, Congress passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act of 2016, which includes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) also known as the water resources bill. This bill enables projects that develop, maintain and revitalize the nation’s vital water infrastructure and restoration projects critical to improving the health of America’s national parks.

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 alone 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

“WIIN is key to ensuring water quality, improving water infrastructure and moving critical restoration projects forward around the country. Given its importance for improving the health of our national parks, we are pleased that Congress passed this legislation to support park water projects just as the Park Service’s centennial year comes to an end. After years of awaiting approval, park projects related to Everglades restoration and programs in the Great Lakes and Delaware River Basin to advance restoration and oyster recovery efforts in the Chesapeake Bay will begin. This decision will have profound effects on our parks for years to come. We will continue to work with Congress to get back on a regular schedule for passing legislation that improves park waterways.”

Critical national park projects include:

Everglades Restoration – The WIIN Act advances several key Everglades restoration projects including the Central Everglades Project (CEP) and a cost adjustment for the Picayune Strand Restoration Project. CEP improves the quantity, quality, timing and distribution for sending more water south from Florida’s northern estuaries to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. CEP also 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 – will approve funding for new, more protective levee standards. This will allow the project to move forward to restore more than 55,000 acres of prime endangered Florida panther 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 – will require the Army Corps to consider nature-based solutions for reducing and combatting the growing threat of climate change on our nation’s coastlines. For example, 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.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – will reauthorize 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.

Delaware River Basin Restoration - 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 be established to support restoration projects, resulting in cleaner water for people and national parks in the Delaware River Basin.

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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.