Last week, the House and Senate held hearings to address this issue. The House Transportation Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment focused on the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). Chairman Garret Graves (LA-6) said the Corps has an “absolutely critical mission,” which centers around building and maintaining infrastructure that bolsters the economy while integrating environmental sustainability. However, both sides of the aisle were concerned with the Corps’ backlog of unfinished projects and lack of implementation guidance for the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (P.L.113-121) and the Water Resources Development Act of 2016. Chairman Graves emphasized, “the implementation schedules that we’ve seen are simply unacceptable.” Addressing these concerns, Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite (Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) called “delivering the program” the agency’s number one priority and said the Corps is committed to helping Congress by “mak[ing] recommendations to the process so we can streamline this and get answers back to the American public.”
In the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife, water infrastructure concerns were more broad. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) brought severely sediment-clogged water pipes from Rhode Island with him to demonstrate “touchable evidence of the problems we have.” Witnesses discussed possible improvements to state revolving funds for water infrastructure, suggesting increased community awareness and consolidation of utilities could help the problem. Additionally, Mr. Andrew Kricun (Executive Director, Chief Engineer, Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority in New Jersey) said the federal government could aid the issue by identifying the water infrastructure improvement needs of smaller communities.
Both chambers of Congress laid out the overwhelming problem facing the nation’s water infrastructure, highlighting both its physical breakdown and its bureaucratic failures. Efforts to restore and revive these structures are largely bipartisan. The administration is committed to rebuilding infrastructure to promote job creation and economic growth and proposed $200 billion for infrastructure funding for Fiscal Year 2018.