As part of the Senate’s “Information Gathering Process” on the draft Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), ASBPA President Tony Pratt, was asked to respond to 18 Questions for the Record from five Senators.
Here are a few abbreviated questions and responses:
Chairman John Barrasso (WY): Why is it important that Congress increase flexibility regarding beneficial use of dredged material for Corps projects?
“Beaches and wetlands are dynamic systems that naturally erode and rebuild, but too often they cannot rebuild because human activity has prevented sediment from ever reaching the coast. America’s coastlines are facing a sediment-starvation crisis. Over the long-term, our nation must consider how to restore the natural processes that resulted in sediment reaching coastal waters. In the near-term, we must make sure that sediment dredged for navigation maintenance is used to restore coastlines. To achieve that goal of 100% beneficial use of dredged material, the Corps will need advanced planning through regional sediment management, flexibility in where material can be placed, and increased funding to ensure beneficial placement is not coming at the expense of other critical navigation projects.”
Ranking Member Tom Carper (DE): OMB determines a project’s benefit-to-cost ratio (BCR) when prioritizing and selecting projects to be included in the annual President’s Budget request and the annual work plan. What are your thoughts on the BCR and the reforms contained in the draft America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2020?
“As a beaches and waterways management professional for 40+ years in Delaware I was acutely aware of the value in guiding investment decisions for the State by including the full suite of benefits that were generated or protected by the investment and the benefits or assets that were at risk if the investment were not made. Sadly, the level of information that I was used to having at the State level is not mirrored in the Federal process of determining where and how much should be invested. We do not see this mirrored to any great degree in the AWIA of 2020. The closest we see is Section 1080, a.2 which says, in reference to the placement of dredged material, “the economic and environmental benefits and impacts, and feasibility, of using the material for those beneficial uses.” We had hoped that this issue would have been more directly addressed in the bill.”
Senator Ben Cardin (MD): Can you provide some background on the benefits of thin layer placement (TLP) of sediment and why identifying more opportunities for this technique is a good idea?
“As sea level rise accelerates in the coming decade, more coastal wetlands will need an adaptation plan that include some amount of TLP to avoid becoming open water. This will be necessary not just to maintain the ecological value of the wetland, but to provide storm protection to nearby communities. Coastal wetlands absorb storm surge and attenuate wave damage, and heavily populated coastal areas from Baltimore to New York to New Orleans benefit from the protection provided by coastal wetlands. Without thin layer placement these communities will be more vulnerable and/or need to invest much heavily in structural protection such as sea walls.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI): In the face of sea level rise, increasing storm intensity, and other coastal threats, does current funding for coastal infrastructure and coastal resiliency meet the long-term needs of our country’s coastal communities?
“Our coastlines are facing challenges today and in the coming years that threaten the very existence of many coastal communities. Coastal resilience and coastal infrastructure are vastly underfunded. Our country must make a major investment in planning, infrastructure and resilience that provides long-term funding for communities looking to reduce their risk, manage their interconnected coastal system and waterways in changing climate conditions, and have the ability to relocate or realign their infrastructure to accommodate future coastal conditions.”
EPW Hearing_QFRs Pratt_Final_5.1.2020 (PDF 367kb)
And see our full testimony.