Huffman Supports Water Resources Development Act, Celebrates Wins for Northern California

July 15, 2020

San Rafael, CA – The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 today, including key North Coast and environmental priorities authored by Representative Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), a member of the committee. This legislation provides authority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to carry out water resources development projects and studies, as well as reforms and policy direction to the Corps for implementation of its civil works missions.

“Making smart investments in water infrastructure and modernizing the Army Corps’ work at our ports, harbors, reservoirs, and waterways is necessary to stimulate the economy and protect communities from the increasing threats of climate change,” said Rep. Huffman. “This legislation will create jobs while addressing the long-term resiliency of our water projects and providing assistance to rural and disadvantaged communities. The investments and provisions outlined in WRDA 2020 will have monumental impacts to communities around the country, especially coastal economies like many in my northern California district in need of harbor maintenance and ecosystem restoration.”

Rep. Huffman has been a key player in the development of WRDA 2020, advocating for his district’s priorities during the initial WRDA committee hearing earlier this year, and collaborating with stakeholders at a California field roundtable on the legislation in early March.

The legislation included numerous provisions Rep. Huffman advocated for, including:

  • Increases the set-aside for smaller “emerging ports,” harbors that don’t have the same tonnage of traffic as larger commercial ports, from 10% of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to 20%. This will benefit smaller regional ports across the North Coast, such as Noyo Harbor and Humboldt.
  • Includes the completion of a feasibility study for a dam raise at Coyote Valley in the list of expedited priority studies and projects in the bill.
  • Authorizes the Corps to assist financially in the ongoing water and boat inspection operations, including the mussel-sniffing dogs at Lakes Sonoma and Mendocino.
  • Acknowledges climate change and the threat of sea level rise by requiring the Corps to update existing planning guidance related to sea level rise based on the best available, peer-reviewed science. The bill also authorizes a study for both the oceanside and bay shorelines of San Francisco Bay counties to consider flooding and other problems from sea level rise, and the threats to both public and private infrastructure, as well as wildlife habitats. 
  • Ensures funding for aquatic ecosystem restoration for anadromous fish through fish bypass structures, tide gates, and restoring or reconnecting floodplains and wetlands.
  • Directs a study on how the Corps can better incorporate water supply and water conservation as a primary mission of the Corps. 
  • Requires a new report from the Corps on the important economic benefits of recreational activities to local and regional economies from Corps infrastructure and facilities, as well as an assessment of deferred maintenance needs. 

We appreciate the advocacy from Congressman Huffman for much needed ongoing maintenance and improvements in Humboldt Bay, including deferred dredging and repairs to the jetties. These improvements will help maintain Humboldt Bay as a year-round port and encourage economic development for the entire region,” said Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, and Conservation District Board President Stephen Kullmann.

“Marin County, bordered by ocean or bay on three sides, recognizes sea level rise as an issue of paramount importance.  If the federal government is to be a partner in helping the County, and coastal jurisdictions like us, to protect ourselves, it will be through the Army Corps of Engineers.  This provision, which we have been working on in Washington for over a year, substantially increases the likelihood that the Corps will, indeed, carry out sea level rise projects.  And, clearly, it would not be in this legislation without Congressman Huffman’s leadership.  We owe him our thanks and gratitude,” said Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly.

“It is critical that we remain vigilant in preventing the introduction of quagga mussels into the waters of Lake Sonoma, Lake Mendocino, and the Russian River basin, so that we don’t experience the proliferation of these invasive species that is seen in so many other waters across the country.  Failure to do so could result in their infestation of our hydropower infrastructure, harm our Coho recovery hatchery, and require millions of dollars to repair the damages they cause.  For his recognition of this predicament, and effective action in having the Russian River basin specifically named as part of the Army Corps Watercraft Inspection program, Congressman Huffman has once again earned our thanks and greatest appreciation.  Having the Russian River basin named in law along with the Columbia, Upper Missouri, and Upper Colorado River basins should help us protect our precious resource for years to come,” said Grant Davis, General Manager of Sonoma Water.

“Thank you Congressman Huffman! Noyo Harbor is a small port And the only "safe harbor" Between Bodega Bay and Humboldt Bay. This will benefit our Harbor In a very positive way,” said Bill Sanborn, Noyo Harbor Harbormaster. 

Congress has also successfully enacted three consecutive bipartisan WRDAs in 2014, 2016, and 2018. More information, including bill text, can be found here.