Today’s post features commentary from guest author Julie Minerva.
I often joke with my clients that following issues too closely at the federal level can result in whiplash. To that regard, it has been a very active summer in Washington, DC on the water infrastructure front. Here’s a rapid fire look at some of the top items of interest that we are sure to hear more about in the fall. Try not to get whiplash.
W – WRDA. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee intends to use the fall to hold hearings in preparation for the next WRDA bill. With WRDAs in 2014 and 2016 Congress has made great strides in returning this authorizing bill for the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) back to its biennial schedule. Fingers crossed that they can do it again in 2018.
H – Hergott. Alex that is. He’s the Associate Director for Infrastructure at the Council on Environmental Quality. He has a wealth of infrastructure experience from his time on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee and he is putting that to good use in the development of the Trump Administration’s forthcoming infrastructure proposal. If I were hosting a dinner for DC-insiders Alex would be at the top of my invite list.
I – Insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) expires at the end of September and the most likely path forward is a series of short-term extensions before a new full authorization can be agreed to. Congresswoman Waters (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, has proposed an amendment to the House FY18 Omnibus Appropriations bill calling for a one year extension of the current law. We’ll soon know if the House Rules Committee deems her amendment “in order” for floor debate.
P – Pavement. Much of the focus for flood risk reduction efforts has been on the Corps budget through the annual Energy & Water Development Appropriations bill. But the Senate FY 18 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill (THUD) contains provisions to help promote permeable pavement and resilient infrastructure. Thumbs up THUD!
L – Line. Across the federal government, September 11th is the deadline for submitting FY19 line by line budget proposals to the Office of Management and Budget. OMB will use these submissions to formulate the President’s FY19 Budget Proposal for agencies like the Corps. Mark your calendar for the first week in February 2018 for the big FY19 budget reveal.
A – Advisory. Before it even had a chance to get off the ground, the President dissolved the White House Advisory Council on Infrastructure. But rest assured, infrastructure remains a priority for the Trump Administration.
S – Standards. As part of the President’s August 15th Executive Order on “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure” he also cancelled the Obama Administration’s Federal Flood Risk Management Standards. The FFRMS had drawn repeated fire from Senator Cochran, to name one very powerful and well placed opponent.
H – Harvey. The President has already pledged federal assistance for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey and it will be up to Congress to provide funding. Before the rain even stopped falling several members of the New York/New Jersey congressional delegation called out the junior Senator from Texas for opposing federal aid for Super Storm Sandy back in 2012. Responding to Harvey will weigh heavily on congressional leadership when Congress returns to the Capitol next week. For Houston’s sake, let’s hope politics can be put aside.