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House Passes Water Resources Development Act, Includes Barragán Priorities

By July 29, 2020 No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 29, 2020

 

Washington D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán joined her colleagues in passing the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020. This legislation makes critical investments in the nation’s ports, inland waterways, flood protection, ecosystem restoration, and other water resources infrastructure.

 

WRDA 2020 includes many important provisions to California’s 44th Congressional District, including unlocking $10 billion in Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund revenues for investments in ports infrastructure, including at the Port of Los Angeles.

 

Rep. Barragán led the fight for two critical policy changes in WRDA 2020 that will level the playing field for natural infrastructure solutions, such as planting trees and restoring green spaces at Compton Creek and along the L.A. River, and increase the affordability of these types of projects to underserved communities.

 

“This bill will make it easier for disadvantaged communities to address flooding in a way that improves our environment and our public health. Our communities will be stronger, built to last, and better prepared for the future,” said Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán.

 

The two policy provisions are as follows:

 

Removing Barriers to Natural Infrastructure

 

Despite the many important benefits provided by natural infrastructure, it still remains an underused tool for reducing flood risks.

 

The Army Corps of Engineers treats natural infrastructure and nonstructural measures differently when assessing the non-Federal cost share, making natural infrastructure more expensive for communities on the ground. The non-federal cost share for nonstructural flood projects is 35% of total project costs. In contrast, the non-federal cost share for natural infrastructure projects can be as high as 50% of total project costs, requiring the non-federal sponsor to pay 35% of project costs plus the cost of land, easements, rights of way, and disposal sites, up to a combined maximum of 50% of project costs.

 

WRDA 2020 clarifies that natural infrastructure projects are subject to the same cost share requirements as nonstructural projects.

 

Facilitate Flood Risk Management Planning for Underserved Communities

 

Studies show that flooding disproportionately impacts low-income communities, indigenous populations and people of color. Currently, federal sponsors pay half of the cost of feasibility studies for flood and hurricane and storm damage reduction projects, leaving communities on the ground to fill the gap. The high cost to conduct these studies can be a significant barrier to considering natural infrastructure options for the communities that may be the least able to pay, and likely the most impacted by flooding and hurricanes.

 

WRDA 2020 establishes an Economically Disadvantaged Community Flood Protection and Storm Damage Reduction Study Pilot Program to conduct flood and storm damage reduction feasibility studies for 10 underserved communities, with a priority that such studies fully evaluate natural infrastructure solutions.

 

Natural infrastructure can provide sustainable, environmentally protective, and less expensive solutions to flood and water management, while simultaneously improving public health and well-being. These benefits should be particularly available to historically undeserved communities.

 

Congresswoman Barragán’s July 29 floor remarks on WRDA 2020 are below.

 

 

Madame Speaker,

 

I am proud that two policy changes I led the fight for have been included in this legislation.

 

Flooding disproportionately impacts low-income communities and people of color. Eighteen months ago, a severe storm in my district flooded the streets of Compton and shut down part of the 710 freeway.

 

Many communities lack the money to pay for studies to plan and develop projects that can reduce damage from flooding and storms. As part of a new program, the federal government will now cover 100 percent of this cost for ten disadvantaged communities.

 

This bill will also make it less costly for communities to restore nature in ways that will reduce the risk of flooding and help provide cleaner air and water.

 

For example, it will be easier to restore areas where water covers the soil, known as wetlands, such as the Dominguez Gap Wetlands along the LA River. Or we can more easily afford planting street trees and trees in local parks to absorb flood water, cool the community, and clean the air.

 

With this bill, our communities will be stronger, built to last, and better prepared for the future.

 

I urge a Yes vote on the Water Resources Development Act of 2020.

 

I yield back.

 

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Nanette Diaz Barragán is proud to represent California’s 44th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Carson, Compton, Florence-Firestone, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate, Walnut Park, Watts, Willowbrook and Wilmington.