Reed Helps Pass Water Projects Bill to Benefit RI

Reed Helps Pass Water Projects Bill to Benefit RI
Sen. Reed includes key provisions in 2016 Water Resources Development Act to enhance
clean water infrastructure and improve dam safety

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate voted 95-3 to pass a bipartisan Water
Resources Development Act (WRDA) that includes key provisions authored by U.S.
Senator Jack Reed to enhance water infrastructure and reduce the threat of lead
poisoning in Rhode Island and communities nationwide.

«Investing in clean water infrastructure must be a priority and the federal
government needs to be a reliable partner when it comes to maintaining healthy, safe
water in our communities. This bill is an important step toward modernizing our
water infrastructure and protecting public health and the environment. We have seen
the tragedy in Flint, Michigan unfold and we know what devastating effects can
result when water is not properly treated or the point source is improperly altered.
Congress must wisely allocate resources to ensure that doesn’t happen again. I
urge the House to swiftly take up and pass this bipartisan bill,» said Reed, who
serves on the Appropriations Committee.

The $10.6 billion in authorizations includes $4.9 billion for Environment Protection
Agency (EPA) drinking water infrastructure programs, including authorization of
grants of up to $300 million over five years for communities to replace lead service
lines, and $1.4 billion in grants over five years for small and low-income
communities to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The bill also appropriates
over $250 million to deal with lead exposure nationwide, $100 million of which will
focus mainly on Flint, Michigan, which is working to rebuild its lead-tainted
drinking water system and address a public health emergency. Senator Reed helped
spearhead efforts to enhance drinking-water infrastructure programs in Rhode Island
and nationwide, including:

$70 million in Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) credit
subsidies which could be used to create a pool of $700 million in low-interest
financing for water infrastructure projects through a newly created fund.

$100 million Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF): Authorizes $100 million to
the DWSRF for subsidized loans and grants to any state that has received an
emergency declaration under the Stafford Act due to a public health threat from lead
or other contaminants in a public drinking water system. A state must submit to EPA
a detailed report on how the funding would be used to address the public health
emergency.

«Drinking water is not the only source of lead contamination,» Reed noted.
«Communities across the country are finding lead contamination in their soil and in
the paint within their homes. In fact, lead-based paint is the leading cause of
lead poisoning in children. Sadly, this is nothing new, and too often it is
low-income families and communities that experience this problem. This issue has
long been a concern of mine. My home state of Rhode Island has the fourth oldest
housing stock in the country. For the past two decades, I have undertaken
initiatives to address lead-based paint hazards. I have pushed for increased
funding for housing and public health programs to better track lead hazards and then
remediate those hazards within homes for low-income families. While these
investments have been significant, more must be done.»

Reed also led efforts to include:

Public Health funding for communities affected by lead: Authorizes $17.5 million for
HHS to conduct a health registry to monitor health in a community with lead
contamination in the local drinking water system through the Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry, or to support an existing registry via a grant or
contract. Also provides $2.5 million to create an advisory committee to review
federal efforts related to lead poisoning programming, research, and services, and
to make recommendations to Congress and the Administration on how to improve health,
education, and nutrition responses.

$100 million over the next five years to improve lead testing in school and child
care drinking water grant program. The Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank and the
Rhode Island Department of Education may both benefit from these federal funds.

$10 million over the next two years for the CDC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention
Fund, which develops programs, provides outreach to the public and health providers,
supports research, and funds state programs to address and prevent childhood lead
poisoning.

$10 million over the next two years for the HUD Healthy Homes Program, which
provides grants to states to identify and mitigate a variety of environmental health
and safety issues such as lead, mold, carbon monoxide, and radon.

$10 million over the next two years for the HHS Healthy Start Initiative, which
provides assistance to pregnant women and new mothers by helping connect them with
health care and other resources to foster healthy childhood development.

The Senate-passed bill also includes language from Senator Reed’s High Hazard
Potential Small Dam Safety Act (S. 2835). This bipartisan legislation seeks to
provide federal grant assistance for the rehabilitation and repair of non-federal
high hazard potential dams. The Senate-passed WRDA bill authorizes $445 million
over ten years for a new FEMA program to rehabilitate high hazard dams which pose a
clear safety risk. The new FEMA program makes high hazard potential dams eligible
for grant assistance and would provide Rhode Island up to $700,000 per year to help
inspect, repair, and rehabilitate high hazard dams.

«Dams are a crucial part of our infrastructure and dam safety is critical to public
safety. But many communities lack the funding and resources to keep local dams in
safe condition. This bipartisan bill will help provide federal grant assistance for
high hazard potential dams in need of rehabilitation. By assisting in the repair or
removal of high hazard dams before they fail, the bill makes an investment in future
cost savings, not to mention lives and property saved,» said Senator Reed, who noted
that according to the 2013 National Inventory of Dams, Rhode Island has 236 dams, 78
of which are classified as high hazard potential, wherein dam failure is probable to
cause loss of human life, and could qualify for the new program.

Reed also worked with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to include language to
clean up marine debris and abandoned Army Corps projects in Narragansett Bay by
expanding the Corps’ authority to remove obstructions adjacent to federal navigation
channels.

Additionally, the bill reauthorizes the Water Resources Research Act, which allows
the U.S. Geological Survey to provide grants to colleges and universities, including
the University of Rhode Island, to support research to improve water supply, address
water quality, and train researchers.

Lastly, the bill requires a study of the Army Corps’ policies on aquaculture in
certain areas of the country.

«Shellfish aquaculture is something we do well in Rhode Island, where there is an
excellent relationship with the Corps and where the industry continues to grow. I
hope the studies authorized in this bill will be informed by our state’s very
productive experience,» concluded Reed.

Now that the bill has passed the U.S. Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support,
it must be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives.