WIFIA only represented a small portion of the massive WRRDA conference agreement, and several other provisions of note to the water community were included in the final bill. Among these were several structural reforms to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) that had been sought by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), such as:
- Extending CWSRF loan repayment periods to 30 years;
- Codifying the application of Davis-Bacon prevailing wage rates and “Buy American” iron and steel product requirements;
- Classifying water reuse, energy efficiency, green infrastructure and security improvements as eligible for CWSRF funding; and
- Increasing affordability by allowing states to offer loans with principal forgiveness or negative interest rates.
Aside from the CWSRF provisions, other items sprinkled throughout the final WRRDA bill include:
- A requirement that the Corps of Engineers update its guidelines for the removal of vegetation on Corps levees after seeking public input. This is intended to ensure that the Corps’ policy is focused on the highest priority safety concerns for communities with levees;
- A new National Levee Safety Initiative that is intended to promote consistent safety standards and effectively communicate to the public the risks of living behind a levee; and
- A mandate for the National Academy of Sciences to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of how to improve water infrastructure to better respond to extreme weather and to mitigate risk associated with extreme events. The provision also calls on the Corps of Engineers to use resilient construction techniques when building new water infrastructure.
Left out of the conference report was a controversial provision that had appeared in the Senate’s first draft of WRRDA legislation last year. The provision, known at the time as Section 2015, would have blocked any modification of an existing federal reservoir’s storage allocation in favor of municipal water supply pursuant to the Water Supply Act of 1958, if the cumulative amount dedicated to local water supply would exceed 5 percent of the reservoir’s conservation storage. Senators subsequently dropped this provision from their WRRDA legislation after AMWA and others raised concerns, and replaced it with a non-binding provision urging states involved in cross-border water rights disputes to “to reach agreement on an interstate water compact as soon as possible.” This non-binding recommendation was preserved in the final conference agreement.