CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Federal lawmakers are closer to sending a measure including various water projects to President Joe Biden’s desk following a recent U.S. Senate vote.
Senators overwhelmingly passed the Water Resources Development Act last Thursday. The legislation authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to lead work related to water resources, environment protection, navigation and construction. Ninety-three senators supported the bill; Indiana Republican Mike Braun was the only legislator who voted against the act.
Congress typically considers the Water Resources Development Act every two years.
The measure includes multiple provisions that would impact West Virginia; it would authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to study the feasibility of modifying seven dams and lakes to allow hydroelectric power generation or energy storage. Officials would consider possible construction at the Sutton Dam in Braxton County; the Hildebrand Lock and Dam in Monongalia County; Bluestone Lake in Summers County; the R.D. Bailey Dam in Wyoming County; the Stonewall Jackson Dam in Lewis County; the East Lynn Dam in Wayne County; and Burnsville Lake in Braxton County.
The measure would additionally change the scope of the state’s two major environmental infrastructure efforts to match with the state’s new congressional districts and allow for future projects in additional counties. The current extent includes only 35 of the state’s 55 counties, but the new measure would ensure all counties could participate in the programs.
According to U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the legislation would expand the type of assistance offered in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to include wastewater and stormwater projects. West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle is part of the watershed.
The bill would change the cost share for the Lower Mud River flood control project in Milton; the federal government would be responsible for 90% of the project’s cost compared to the current 65% level. The measure also would expedite a study related to flood risk management with the Kanawha River basin and authorize a similar study regarding Huntington. It would also accelerate the completion of safety modifications to the Bluestone Dam in Summers County.
Capito serves as the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which led the effort to get the bill through the Senate.
“It’s the culmination of a true bipartisan agreement, and it represents our shared goal of addressing the nation’s water resources need,” Capito said during a speech on the Senate floor.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., did not vote on the measure; the senator spent last week in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.
In a statement, Manchin noted the Kanawha River basin study is supported by funds allocated in last year’s infrastructure law.
“Along with the investments made possible by my Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this legislation will enable exciting projects to diversify, modernize and strengthen our economy, create new jobs and make our communities safer,” he said.
The House of Representatives passed a similar version of the measure in June. The chamber voted 384-37; West Virginia’s members — David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller — supported the act.