Why It Matters: 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, coastal resiliency, and curtail the threats of invasive species. WRDA 22, now a part of the National Defense Authorization Act, is poised to see several import fishing and boating priorities become law for 2023.
- The Water Resources Development Act, commonly known as WRDA, authorizes water resources infrastructure projects carried out by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and is generally updated by Congress every two years.
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is one of the nation’s leading federal providers of outdoor recreation with more than 400 lake and river projects in 43 states.
- WRDA 22 was amended to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 23 which passed the House last week, and the amendment contained several CSF-supported provisions that will benefit angling and boating access, as well as our fisheries and aquatic resources.
Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 7776, the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (NDAA) and includes the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA) language, 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. Fortunately, the version that passed the House contained several CSF priority provisions, and CSF submitted a support letter to Senate leadership urging that our priorities remain in the final version of the bill. The NDAA will be considered by the Senate this week.
Some of the CSF-supported provisions that are poised for becoming law in the NDAA if they remain in the final agreement include:
- Requires the Corps to prepare and submit an updated report to Congress on the economic benefits of recreational boating in the Great Lakes basin.
- 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.
- Modifies state cost share requirement of Brandon Road project from 80 to 90 percent, which will close the most likely route for Asian carp to enter the Great Lakes.
- 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.
While a provision to allow the Corps to retain 80% of recreation fees collected at recreation sites for operation and maintenance did not make it into the bill, CSF will be working with partners on a standalone bill in the 118th Congress to ensure the majority of money collected at Corps recreation sites remain with those sites.