Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporter, Published: Monday, October 21, 2019

Leaders from the Army Corps of Engineers will appear before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday as Congress looks to pass another water infrastructure authorization package in 2020. The hearing, titled “Improving American Economic Competitiveness through Water Resources Infrastructure,” will include testimony from Army Corps head R.D. James and Army Corps Commanding General Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite.

For the past six years, Congress has been able to pass a water infrastructure authorization bill every two years, even as other major legislative priorities have been stymied by partisan deadlock. In the lead-up to the most recent Water Resources Development Act, passed in 2018, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed interest in potentially moving the Army Corps of Engineers out of the Defense Department and potentially splitting the agency between the Transportation and Interior departments.

Ultimately, the final bill asked the National Academy of Sciences to study the question of moving the Army Corps, and the topic is sure to come up again this week (E&E Daily, Oct. 1, 2018). Semonite and James are likely to also field questions from lawmakers about infrastructure projects in their districts they are interested in.

That could include the controversial Yazoo Backwater Pumps project, which the George W. Bush EPA vetoed more than a decade ago. Though that decision was upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Mississippi lawmakers have been pushing both EPA and the Army Corps to revisit the project in the wake of devastating flooding this spring.

Charlotte Bertrand, deputy assistant administrator for policy, for EPA’s Office of Water, will appear this week, an EPW aide said. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also kicked off work on the infrastructure authorization over the weekend.

Members of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment traveled to Florida for a roundtable discussion with local officials. The delegation also took a boat tour of the Everglades, which received a $200 million authorization in the 2018 legislation.