Senate EPW Committee Advances Bipartisan Water Infrastructure Legislation
On May 6, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) passed America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020) and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 as amended by a vote of 21 to 0.
ACA strongly supports the water bills package, and in a letter in advance of the bill markup and vote, had urged the committee leadership to pass the measures.
AWIA 2020 provides roughly $17 billion in new federal authorizations to invest in our infrastructure for projects across the country. It sets a two- year goal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) to complete its feasibility studies for potential projects, consistent with the standard set by President Trump. The Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 reauthorizes Safe Drinking Water Act programs that support drinking water infrastructure and provide resources and technical assistance to communities facing critical drinking water needs.
The bills were introduced by U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Tom Carper (D-DE), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). The senators introduced the draft bills on April 21, 2020.
“Every American relies on water infrastructure. Millions of Americans across the country rely on Army Corps of Engineers projects to safely navigate our waters, stay safe from flooding and storm damage, and reap the benefits of healthy aquatic ecosystems and marshlands,” said Sen. Carper after passage.
Capito and Cardin serve as chairman and ranking member of the EPW Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Cramer and Duckworth serve as chairman and ranking member of the EPW Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife.
In a May 1 letter to Sens. Barrasso and Carper who serve as chairman and ranking member, respectively, ACA noted its support for a robust program to upgrade and improve the aging inland waterways as well as America’s ports, the gateway to commerce.
ACA also urged the Senate committee leadership to include the Innovative Materials for America’s Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded (IMAGINE) Act, in any legislative package considered by the committee, since it would encourage investing in new techniques and materials, including coatings, that would help to extend the life of critical public works.
“The coatings industry has been investing millions of its own dollars to develop the most innovative class of coatings, adhesives and insulating foams. These materials will play an important role in designing the 21st Century infrastructure that is needed to meet 21st Century challenges. Investment in our nation’s infrastructure is critical and cannot wait any further,” ACA stated.
The IMAGINE Act would establish a task force to assess existing standards and test methods for the use of innovative materials in infrastructure, identify key barriers in the standards area that inhibit broader market adoption, and develop new methods and protocols, as necessary, to better evaluate innovative materials. In addition, innovative material hubs would be developed to further drive research and development of different innovative materials for use in infrastructure projects. Under the bill, research funds are dedicated to the development of innovative materials. Specifically, an “Innovative Bridge Program” and a “Water Infrastructure Innovation Program” are included in this legislation.
While the IMAGINE Act wasn’t included in the amended water bills package that passed, ACA is still advocating for its inclusion in Infrastructure measures that Congress is considering.
ACA believes that successful infrastructure legislation must promote innovative technologies and drive solutions that improve the performance of our national infrastructure. By protecting the surfaces to which they are applied, coatings are a significant contributor to any effort to improve U.S. infrastructure. New, technology-driven coating materials can make our public works safer, and more resilient and sustainable, and respond better to extreme weather, rising sea level, and other 21st century challenges like chemical damage. For instance, ACA cited that unprotected steel structures in harsh environments can lose as much as 1 mm in thickness in as little as five years. This loss contributes to structural weakness, and the steel must be replaced. But a thin protective coating applied to the steel can slow or delay the corrosion process and significantly extend the life of the steel by 15 or more years, even in offshore environments. For example, coatings applied to the San Mateo Bridge in Hayward, California extended the service life of the bridge by an additional 25-45 years.
ACA also noted that coatings are also integral for protecting our water. Protective pipe coatings for water transmission are frequently overlooked but play a vital role: the coatings work as both an internal lining and a corrosion-resistant external coating, for both potable and non-potable water transmission pipelines, acting as a barrier for both mechanical resilience and resistance against both chemical and climactic impact.
The IMAGINE Act will encourage research and deployment of innovative construction materials, including the next generation of coatings that are crucial for transportation and water infrastructure projects nationwide. These materials are often invisible but can lengthen the lifespan of expensive and critical infrastructure and extend capital investments.
Contact ACA’s Heidi McAuliffe for more information.
Contact ACA’s Heidi McAuliffe for more information.