Before the Congress recessed for the year, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed S.612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act” or the “WIIN Act” (also known as the Water Resource Development Act [WRDA]), which includes many provisions to help protect, restore, and increase the resilience of U.S. coastlines. The President signed the bill on December 16, 2016.
“Sediment is a critical resource for building and restoring protective beach and dune systems and restoring coastal environments. S.612 establishes an important pilot program that would allow coastal communities, states and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to beneficially use dredged sediment,” said Derek Brockbank, Executive Director of American Shore & Beach Preservation Association. “Supporting Regional Sediment Management is just one way the WIIN Act helps coastal communities prepare for hurricanes and coastal storms. The WIIN also supports coastal resilience and sea level rise planning and tells the Army Corps to assess the ability of natural and nature-based features – such as beaches, dunes and wetlands – to reduce flood risk.”
The water bill also provides for $5 million a year in grants for projects designed to improve habitats and water quality and reduce the threat from floods in the Delaware River Basin, setting up a program similar to those for the Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound. The basin pumps around $25 billion a year into the regional economy and supports around 600,000 jobs. The watershed encompasses 26 percent of New Jersey’s land area and 20 percent of its population. “Protecting and promoting the Delaware River Basin for future generations is an economic and environmental priority,” said Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.).
The water bill also authorized $55 million to improve storm protection for North Wildwood, Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, and Lower Township in Cape May County and in Ocean County, including dune construction; and required the Army Corps of Engineers to complete its study and then begin work to design a project to reduce the threat of flooding in the Rahway River Basin in Essex, Middlesex and Union counties.
Before ending the legislative session, lawmakers also passed legislation to make mapping changes in the John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System. This was needed before the Army Corps could begin a $273 million flood control project in Union Beach, which was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy.