Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, recently visited the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays in Rehoboth Beach, and met with state and federal officials to commemorate National Estuaries Week and discuss how America’s Water Infrastructure Act, co-authored by Carper, will address clean water and infrastructure issues critical to the health and economic productivity of Delaware’s Inland Bays.
Passed unanimously by the House of Representatives Sept. 5, the major water infrastructure bill includes provisions to create a new program to help small communities, like areas near Millsboro, combat underground drinking water contamination; promotes solutions to reduce agricultural runoff; and authorizes $75 million for a new beach nourishment program.
In 1994, then-Gov. Carper enacted the Inland Bays Watershed Enhancement Act, which established the Center for the Inland Bays to help restore and protect these three interconnected bodies of water in southeastern Delaware.
“Critical to Delaware agriculture, tourism and drinking water, a clean Inland Bays Watershed makes for a healthier and more productive First State,” said Carper. “We have a responsibility to bolster state-level efforts to protect groundwater sources from pollution and help make sure that every Delawarean has access to clean drinking water. That’s why I’m proud to report that a major water infrastructure bill aimed to address these issues is moving quickly through Congress. The bill establishes new federal programs to help communities address water contamination, promotes natural infrastructure like dunes, and supports the restoration of wetlands and ecosystems. America’s Water Infrastructure Act is a win-win for Delaware public health and our state’s economy, and I’m urging my colleagues in the Senate to promptly support the bill and get it to the president’s desk.”
Overall, America’s Water Infrastructure Act authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to construct, modify, or study more than 77 water resource development projects; reforms the corps’ budgeting process to provide greater transparency for both Congress and the public, and mandates that the corps annually report uncompleted work at all phases of a project’s lifecycle; requires the corps to consider natural infrastructure alternatives when developing new projects; gives state and local leaders a greater role in prioritizing Army Corps projects, and allows local sponsors to provide advance funds for projects so work can be initiated faster and stay on schedule; authorizes $75 million in appropriations for a new beach nourishment and shoreline protection pilot program; boosts flood control efforts by reauthorizing levee safety and dam safety programs through 2023; and establishes multiple resiliency programs to help communities invest in protecting their water infrastructure from extreme weather events and sea level rise.
It also reauthorizes, for the first time in 22 years, the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund that provides for needed investments in communities across the country, doubling the size of the program from $1 billion to $1.95 billion by 2021; authorizes a new $100 million program of the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund to help areas impacted by natural disasters repair damaged drinking water infrastructure and make such infrastructure more resilient to future storms; extends for five years the Buy America requirements of the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund to ensure American-made products are used to construct projects funded through the program; expands the existing small and disadvantaged community grant program to create a new grant for underground drinking water contamination to help states address communities, like the areas around Millsboro, that face high levels of drinking water contamination; and expands the lead in schools testing program to provide schools with additional assistance to address lead contamination, including replacement of drinking water fountains.