Congress approves water resources bill with hydro-related provisions

Congress sent the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 to the president Sept. 24, authorizing $23 billion in projects, including a $444 million flood damage reduction project at 198.72-MW Folsom Dam in California.

The Folsom work includes an auxiliary spillway to protect the Sacramento region. (HNN 5/28/07) The spillway would be built by the Corps of Engineers, which operates the dam for flood protection, and the Bureau of Reclamation, which is responsible for dam safety. Work could total $683 million, including the $444 million in federal costs authorized in the WRDA.

The Senate approved a conference committee report Sept. 24 on a vote of 81-12. The House approved the House-Senate compromise in August on a vote of 381-40. Although President Bush has indicated he would veto the bill for authorizing too costly a list of projects, the substantial votes in favor of the bill indicated a veto override is possible.

�This WRDA bill will provide critical flood protection for California, including authorizing necessary modifications at Folsom Dam to protect hundreds of thousands of people in the Sacramento area,� Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, also supported the measure, noting it is an authorization bill, not an appropriations bill.

�This bill allows certain projects to get in line for funding; it does not actually fund any projects,� Inhofe said.

Another provision in the final bill would authorize the appropriation of $500,000 for the Secretary of the Army to study the potential to carry out ecosystem restoration and hydropower generation at dams in Vermont. The study would determine the feasibility of providing water resource improvements and small-scale hydro generation in the state, including options for hydro, dam restoration, dam removal, and fish passage.

Another provision would authorize the appropriation of $12 million to the Secretary of the Army to offer assistance to enhance dam safety at 15 locations in seven states.

Also in the bill is language authorizing $35 million for research and development of Columbia and Snake River salmon survival.

Other big-ticket items in the bill include $3.6 billion in wetlands and coastal restoration, flood control, and dredging for hurricane-wracked Louisiana. Another $2 billion is authorized for restoration of the Florida Everglades. Another $2 billion authorization is included for the Corps to build seven new locks on the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

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