The WIIN Act Is In; Will WOTUS Be Out?

The Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation (WIIN Act), formerly known as the Water Resources Development Act or WRDA, cleared the U.S. Senate by a vote of 78 to 21 after passing the U.S. House of Representatives. The bipartisan bill now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

WIIN provides much-needed certainty to our nation’s water infrastructure system by allotting funds for water infrastructure projects across the country, as well as authorizations for over 30 port, levee and dam projects.

Coupled with a sustainable funding mechanism for highways, certainty for America’s water infrastructure has been high on the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association’s (NSSGA) list of priorities for 2016.

“As one of the last votes of this Congress, the passage of WIIN is a great win for the aggregates industry,” said Ashley Amidon, NSSGA director of government affairs. “Our industry’s products both create and improve this essential infrastructure system, and we are encouraged by this show of Congressional support.”

Voter Support

In the final weeks of the lame-duck session, a national poll by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) found that voters strongly support federal funding for water pipelines and waterways as well as for resources that prevent drinking water contamination crises, like those that occurred in Flint, Mich.

The findings were part of a national poll commissioned by AEM to gauge voter perceptions and attitudes about United States water infrastructure broadly and WIIN Act

“Improving and modernizing U.S. infrastructure overall, and in this case, water infrastructure, continues to be a bipartisan priority among voters,” said Dennis Slater, AEM president.

The national poll identified a number of key findings, including:

  • A majority (54 percent) of registered voters said that U.S. water infrastructure is in fair or poor condition.
  • Nearly seven out of 10 (67 percent) of the surveyed population believe that the federal government should spend somewhat more or much more on water pipelines and waterways.
  • More than seven out of every 10 (74 percent) registered voters either support or strongly support Congress passing a water infrastructure bill.
  • A clear majority (73 percent) of registered voters are either somewhat or much more likely to support a water infrastructure bill when they learn that it might prevent drinking water crises such as the one in Flint, Mich.

The national poll was conducted as part of AEM’s ongoing efforts to develop a long-term national vision for U.S. infrastructure through its Infrastructure Vision 2050 initiative.

WOTUS Revisited

The Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule is another story. Twenty-nine key Congressional leaders sent a letter to President-elect Trump urging the new administration to “rescind the harmful and flawed Waters of the U.S. rule” upon taking office.

NSSGA has met with most of these members over the past several years on this issue, noting the particular harm the rule would do to the aggregates industry. In their letter, the members note that the rule expands federal jurisdiction far beyond congressional intent and will have serious consequences for businesses. President-elect Trump has repeatedly stated his opposition to WOTUS and intent to stop the rule within his first 100 days in office.

“NSSGA joins Congress in asking President-elect Trump relieve the aggregates industry and other businesses of this burdensome and unnecessary rule,” said Emily Coyner, NSSGA director of environmental affairs.

NSSGA filed a lawsuit last year as part of a coalition of organizations and businesses in order to challenge the rule. A nationwide stay is currently keeping the rule from being implemented across the country.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President-elect Trump’s choice to head up the EPA, is not a fan of the WOTUS rule.

“Respect for private property rights have allowed our nation to thrive, but with the recently finalized rule, farmers, ranchers, developers, industry and individual property owners will now be subject to the unpredictable, unsound, and often byzantine regulatory regime of the EPA,” Attorney General Pruitt said upon filing the lawsuit opposing WOTUS.

NSSGA said it would look forward to working with an EPA administrator that understands the harmful repercussions of the agency’s WOTUS rule. Many areas of previously unregulated land would fall under federal jurisdiction, if the nationwide stay on WOTUS is lifted, and require costly federal permitting, correction or mitigation, which in turn will cause increased delays and cost overruns for critical public-works projects.

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