U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife, issued the following statement after EPW unanimously passed water infrastructure legislation out of committee today:
“The water infrastructure legislation passed today will benefit North Dakotans and set America up for long-term success. It will create jobs while protecting access to safe drinking water and providing the clear direction and oversight the Army Corps of Engineers needs. Today’s vote is an important step in crafting a comprehensive infrastructure package, and I hope we can get it through the full Senate and onto the President’s desk soon.”
This legislation contains several North Dakota priorities written by Senator Cramer, such as:
- Snake Creek Embankment – requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to reassess its current Water Control Plan for the Snake Creek Embankment to account for irrigation and Eastern North Dakota water supplies.
- Williston Levee Accreditation – requiring the USACE to work with communities like Williston, which is seeking accreditation for a levee operated and maintained by the USACE.
- Surplus Water Fees – permanently prohibiting surplus water fees in Upper Missouri Mainstem Reservoirs. Previous water infrastructure bills extended this prohibition, and Senator Cramer’s language would make it permanent.
- Mouse River Flood Protection Plan – authorizing the Mouse River project to provide future flood protection for residents throughout the Mouse River Basin in North Dakota. This provides substantial progress for Minot’s flood control plan.
- Terrestrial Noxious Weed Control Demonstration Program – directing the USACE to partner with interested parties to identify and develop improved strategies to manage the reoccurring issue of noxious weeds, which can be harmful to public health, agriculture, recreation, wildlife, and overall property quality.
- Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) – reauthorizing the WIFIA program for 4 years at $50M per year. While visiting Bismarck in October last year, EPA Administrator Wheeler announced EPA’s invitation for the Metro Flood Diversion Authority (MFDA) to apply for the third round of WIFIA funding for the diversion project in Fargo.
- Rush River and Lower Rush River – deauthorizing projects which have outlived their usefulness and are no longer needed for the purpose for which they were originally constructed. This includes the Rush River and Lower Rush River projects, which Cass County has asked to be deauthorized.
- Subsurface Drain Systems Research and Development – establishing a research and development project to better understand and offer a potential system for durable, corrugated and perforated polyethylene tile, designed to benefit farmers, coastal communities, and the public seeking cost-effect flood risk reduction measures.
- Underserved, Economically Distressed or Rural USACE Projects – creating a separate process for the USACE to prioritize projects effecting communities most in need.
- Categorical Exclusions – requiring the Secretary of the Army to identify and utilize all available categorical exclusions to expedite the completion of projects.
- Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) – Nearly doubling the funding for the CWSRF through 2024. The CWSRF program is administered by North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality and North Dakota Public Finance Authority and provides low-interest financing for the development of water systems for communities, schools, parks and other projects. The current program is funded at $1.69B. This bill increases funding to $2B in 2022, $2.5B in 2023 and $3B in 2024.
During today’s markup, Senator Cramer continued advocating for a permanent solution to the longstanding conflict between the USACE application of federal water law and western states’ water rights. The Senator offered an amendment to codify the historic practice of not requiring a water supply contract as part of granting water users access to USACE reservoirs in Western states.
“Western states span the ideological spectrum, but we are united in believing our states’ water rights must be respected,” said Senator Cramer. “This legislative text does not affect any state east of the Mississippi. Just as western states want to protect our water rights, we are not trying to get involved in eastern states’ water wars. No matter our political stripes, all senators understand the importance of protecting the rights granted to our states and I’m sure each member of the EPW would agree they would rather have their state determining how to best serve your constituents.”
Last year, Senator Cramer led a bipartisan group of his colleagues and interested stakeholders to express deep concern over the USACE’s proposed Water Supply Rule, which President Trump ultimately decided to withdraw. As EPW drafted this legislation, Senators Cramer and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) led a bipartisan effort to provide a permanent solution, and Senator Cramer proposed a similar amendment today.
Senator Cramer vowed to continue fighting for the affirmation of states’ authority as Chairman Barrasso committed to working toward a long-term solution for western states.