As part of the omnibus spending package, Congress passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA 2020). This bipartisan legislation builds upon previous legislation toward improving the condition and safety of our aging dam and levee infrastructure. 

Within WRDA 2020 are needed improvements to the National High Hazard Potential Dam (HHPD) Rehabilitation Act. ASDSO and our partners, the ASCE Government Relations Team and the Association of State Floodplain Management, have been working since the grant program was initiated to suggest changes that would address many questions and procedural gray areas to make participation in the program less onerous. The changes included in WRDA 2020 will clarify a) who the recipients and sub-recipients can be and b) procedures and roles/responsibilities for plans and maintenance requirements. FEMA will be required to provide more guidance to recipients on how to create hazard mitigation and floodplain management plans. The new provisions allow small hydropower producing dams – minor waterpower projects as defined by the FERC – to be eligible for these grants. 

This amendment is also an important next step towards meeting the goals listed in the Joint Statement of Collaboration on U.S. Hydropower. The initiative detailed in this statement is an effort to bring together the U.S. hydropower industry and the environmental and river conservation communities to address climate change by advancing the renewable energy and storage benefits of hydropower and the environmental and economic benefits of healthy rivers. More practical steps can be taken towards the goals through the now increased efficiency and inclusiveness of the HHPD Rehab grant delivery system.

ASDSO would like to thank Senator Feinstein (CA) and Representative Maloney (NY-18) for their support and leadership in crafting the HHPD Rehab Grant program amendments. Additionally, we would like to recognize the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The full WRDA 2020 bill addresses additional water infrastructure needs such as improvements to the USACE Levee Safety Program, increasing water storage, providing protection from dangerous floodwaters, deepening nationally significant ports, maintaining the navigability of inland waterways, and addressing the threat of invasive species across the country. The legislation also cuts red tape, is fiscally responsible, and strengthens our national security.

The language of WRDA 2020 was negotiated by Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), Tom Carper (D-DE), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO). 

The president signed the omnibus spending package, along with WRDA 2020, into law in late December 2020.