Senate Passed Water Resources Development Act that Would Direct Resources for Dredging and Maintenance to Ohio’s Lake Erie Harbors and Help Communities Implement Dam Safety Plans and Inspections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate passed legislation today to connect businesses and communities throughout Ohio with critical resources for maintenance, inspections, and upgrades to water infrastructure projects. The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) also includes three bipartisan amendments introduced by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that would help slow the spread of Asian carp in the Ohio and Upper Mississippi River Basins, expedite projects like the Blanchard River Flood Mitigation Project (BRFRP), and utilize American-made steel and iron in water infrastructure projects.

“Our state’s aging water infrastructure includes harbors in need of dredging, flood mitigation projects on hold, and more than 900 potentially-hazardous dams,” Brown said. “As we work to build safer communities and encourage businesses to grow and invest in Ohio, the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act is an important step toward continued economic development. I will continue fighting for Ohio’s communities and businesses to ensure they have access to resources to make our state a great place to work and live.”

Brown authored and passed three bipartisan amendments to the legislation:

1)      An amendment to prevent the invasion of Asian carp into the Ohio River: Based on the Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act, would enable the federal government to have a more effective partnership with state and local entities that are working to slow the spread of Asian carp. The amendment passed by a vote of 95-0 last week.

2)      An amendment to expedite the eligibility of projects like Findlay’s Blanchard River Flood Risk Mitigation Project for federal funds: Would ensure projects are eligible for federal construction funds upon completion of their U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) Chief of Engineer’s Report and Senate approval.

3)      An amendment to ensure that American-made iron, steel, and manufactured goods are used in water infrastructure projects: Would establish Buy America provisions for federally-financed water infrastructure projects and support Ohio manufacturers like ArcelorMittal in Cleveland, McWane in Coshocton, Nucor in Marion, and U.S. Steel in Lorain. The amendment passed by a vote of 60-36 today.

Brown also fought for a number of provisions that would benefit Ohio businesses and communities.

Brown worked to prioritize funding for dredging and maintenance of Ohio’s commercial harbors, including in: Ashtabula, Cleveland, Conneaut, Lorain, Sandusky, and Toledo. Brown fought to ensure that the Great Lakes will receive continued funding for dredging and maintenance of navigation channels.  

Ohio has nearly 1,000 dams considered “high” or “significant” hazards—many without an emergency action plan (EAP) to protect local homes and businesses should dam breakage or flooding occur. WRDA would make Ohio’s dams safer and protect Ohio communities by directing resources for dam inspections and maintenance in addition to stronger safety requirements through the reauthorization of the expired National Dam Safety Program (NDSP). The NDSP provides federal funding for grant assistance to: complete inspections and develop EAPs; implement public awareness and outreach programs; conduct research to identify more effective techniques to assess, construct, and monitor dams; and provide training assistance to state engineers.

Of the more than 900 hazardous dams in Ohio, more than 400 are designated as “high-hazard”— dams that would cause loss of life and/or significant damage to surrounding properties if they failed—and more than 500 are designated as “significant-hazard”—those dams where failure or structural problems that could cause economic loss, environmental damage, flooding of highways or railroads, or impact public inquires. Many of these dams do not have an EAP in place. Brown released a map and county-by-county analysis of Ohio’s hazardous dams in addition to those lacking an EAP.