Today’s guest-post is from Laura Morgan-Kessler of Van Scoyoc Associates.
On Monday, February 12, President Trump formally unveiled his proposed infrastructure package entitled “Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America.” The proposal outlined the following main goals:
- Provide $200 billion in federal funding to spur $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment
- Remove regulatory barriers
- Streamline and shorten permitting for infrastructure projects
- Increase local authority by allocating funds to projects prioritized by State and local authorities
- Expand processes that allow environmental review and permitting decisions to be delegated to States
- Allow Federal agencies to divest assets that can be better managed by State or local governments or the private sector
The $200 billion in proposed federal funding would be divided into several different funding opportunities. At first review, the federal funding opportunities for flood control projects appears to be limited. $100 billion would be used to create an Infrastructure Incentives Program. This newly-created program would aim to incentivize innovative project approaches that will generate revenue, reduce project cost, and improve performance. Flood control projects are listed as an eligible project category for this program. Additionally, $50 billion would be used to create a Rural Infrastructure Program. Funding under this program would be given directly to the states to determine how best to it can be used to address rural infrastructure needs.
The plan does provide some proposed regulatory relief and permit streamlining proposals that could prove to be beneficial for flood control projects. The proposal would create an “one agency, one decision” process for projects that have multiple federal agencies involved in the permitting process. The plan would establish a lead federal agency that would coordinate permitting with all other federal agencies. Under this approach, decisions would be reached within 21 months, and the permits issued 3 months later.
The plan includes several other proposed regulatory and permitting changes such as:
- Amend the law to expand authority for the acceptance of contributed funds even if no federal funds have been appropriated for the authorized project for all authorized WRDA studies and projects
- Authorize federal agencies to select and use nationwide permits without additional Army Corps of Engineers review
- Broaden existing authorities to delegate environmental review and permitting responsibilities to States
- Allow use of one NEPA document for both Section 404 and 408 actions
It is important to note that this proposal is the first step in a long process. Several committees in both the House and the Senate will have jurisdiction over portions of an infrastructure package, and as a result, it can be expected that many Members of Congress will have strong views on the funding and policy priorities. Over the coming weeks and months, Congress will likely begin to focus and work on this issue. It will be important for Members to hear from the flood control community about what types of federal funding opportunities and regulatory changes would be helpful.
You can see Laura’s bio here.
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