Friday, April 06, 2007

American Rivers Update April 2, 2007

Congress is on recess this week for a district work period. The Senate will reconvene on April 9th and the House will reconvene the following week on April 16th.

1) Week in Review

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a meeting to mark-up its version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA) on Thursday, March 29th. The bill, which passed favorably out of committee, is very similar to the bill that passed the Senate last year. It would authorize more than 200 water resources projects and includes several provisions to modernize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) that are supported by the environmental community. These include provisions to require independent peer review of controversial Corps projects or those costing more than $40 million, increase mitigation of unavoidable harm to rivers and wetlands, and require the rewriting of outdated Principles and Guidelines that determine how the Corps operates. At this time it is unclear when WRDA will receive floor time in the Senate. The House version, H.R. 1495, contains significantly weaker reform provisions and is expected to be taken up by the full House soon after members return from their spring recess on April 16.

On Thursday, March 29th, the House of Representatives passed its budget resolution for Fiscal Year 2008 (FY 08). The nearly $3 trillion measure was passed by a 216-210 vote and now heads to conference with the Senate. Included in the House resolution is $32.8 billion for FY 08 function 300 spending, the primary funding source for most environmental and natural resource programs. The Senate budget resolution, which passed on March 23rd, includes $31.322 billion for function 300 spending. While both the House and Senate levels for environmental funding are higher than the FY 07 level and the Bush Administration's FY 08 request, they both fall short of the FY 05 funding level of $33.039 billion. For more information on the river community's funding priorities for FY 08, please see the FY 08 River Budget.

A large number of river and water related bills were introduced in Congress last week including S. 1057 by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to designate the New River in Virginia and North Carolina as Wild and Scenic and H.R. 1816 by Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) to restore the Caloosahatchee River in Florida.

2) Recently Introduced River-Related Bills

The following river-related bills were introduced in the House and the Senate last week. Please note that unless otherwise indicated, American Rivers has not taken a position in support or opposition. For more information, please click on the bill's link.

H.R. 1662, sponsored by Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), would amend the Reclamation Safety of Dams Act of 1978 to authorize improvements for the security of dams and other facilities.

H.R. 1747, sponsored by Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-CA), would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to require a national primary drinking water regulation for perchlorate.

H.R. 1766, sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), would amend conservation and biofuels programs of the Department of Agriculture to reduce nutrient loads in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

H.R. 1789, sponsored by Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to reduce predation on endangered Columbia River salmon.

H.R. 1816, The Restoring the Caloosahatchee River: A Legacy Act for Florida, sponsored by Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL), would improve water quality and better manage the water releases from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River.

H.R. 1842, sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to prevent acid mine drainage into the Great Lakes.

H.R. 1844, sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), would amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to prevent acid mine drainage into the Great Lakes.

S. 1029, sponsored by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) would amend the Food Security Act of 1985 to provide incentives to landowners to protect and improve streams and riparian habitat.

S. 1057, sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), would designate the New River in North Carolina and Virginia as a National Wild and Scenic River.

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