July 11, 2022

Anglers Could Benefit from Next Water Resources Development Act

Why it matters: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps)-managed waters account for around 14% of all freshwater fishing in the United States. The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) provides an opportunity every two years to enhance the Corps ability to provide public recreational activities like fishing and boating, as well as authorizing projects that improve fish habitat, water conservation, and curtail the threats of invasive species.

As Congress returns to Washington, one of the pressing pieces of legislation on the calendar is for both chambers to reach an agreement on the next version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which is an important bill to authorize U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) activities for things like flood control, navigation, recreation, and ecosystem restoration. The House version of the bill passed on a strong bipartisan vote on June 8, and the Senate version cleared the Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously on May 4.

CSF actively advocated for several provisions found in the Senate version of WRDA that would benefit anglers and our fisheries. In addition, CSF recently joined a letter with the broader recreation community to urge that several Senate provisions not found in the House version be retained in the final bill. Some of the key CSF-supported provisions that are poised for becoming law in WRDA 22 if they remain in the final agreement include:

Allowing the Corps to retain 80% of recreation fees collected at recreation sites for operation and maintenance of activities at that site.
Increases invasive species management authorized appropriations for the Corps to partner with other federal and state agencies and adds the Lake Erie and Ohio River Basins as areas eligible for those partnerships.
Authorizes the Corps to accept and use non-Federal materials, services, and funds to repair, restore, or rehabilitate public recreation facilities at Corps-operated reservoirs during periods of lower water.
Requires the Corps to report on the investments needed to support recreational activities on authorized water resources development projects.
Requires the Corps to establish a demonstration program to provide assistance to non-Federal interests in the Lower Mississippi River Basin for projects focused on aquatic ecosystem restoration, among others.

In addition to supporting the provisions included in the Senate bill, members of the recreational fishing community are also asking for key fixes to the challenge cost sharing cooperative management agreement (CCSMA) authority authorized in WRDA 2016. Under the existing authority, the Corps is unable to use the recreation system (Recreation.gov) to collect and handle any non-Corps revenue and send the funds back to the partner, deterring partners who have shown interest in cooperatively managing parks with the Corps and increasing recreational opportunities for anglers and boaters.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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