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Legislation & Policy Committee Meeting Summary — June 22nd, 2023

Link to recording: https://youtu.be/NpdmWumLdYE

  • Call to Order – Kirsten Wallace, UMRBA; Chair

Introductions of participants on the call – Beth Callaway, John Anderson, Kirsten Wallace,, Robby Short, Wade Loseman, Yohanes Sugeng, Drew Dehoff

  • Updates from Van Scoyoc Associates – John Anderson, Van Scoyoc Associates

Appropriations bills for FY24 – House and Senate bills are beginning to move. House bill is marked up today in full committee; Interior House bill to mark up next week. Senate is a little behind, will mark up this month as well. Target #s: House energy and water 35% lower than current FY23, USACE portion will be slightly higher than 2023; Senate bill will be 5% higher than FY23. Still a long way to go bc process still has a long way to go before the end of fiscal year. All these 12 bills are not likely to be finished by the end of Sept.  Will probably need continuing resolutions. Most non-defense agencies are going to see significant cuts; who gets cut the most depends.

WRDA 2024 – Expected to complete Q3 or 4 2024. Senate EPW will ask for WRDA requests to Senators for an early October deadline. House will start toward the end of this calendar year/early 2024. Wrap up will likely be next summer or fall. Advice is to get with your Senators first to articulate requests for the EPW deadline. House – get requests to T&I later this fall. VSA will provide their WRDA Primer webinar to ICWP members in the coming weeks.

WOTUS – Recent Supreme Court ruling reducing the jurisdiction of waters for permanent standing or continuous flowing waters will require that EPA/Corps modify their rules. Republicans are asking the agencies to explain what they’re going to do/how they will comply.

August recess – Senate out starting week of July 31st return Sept 5th. House out same return Sept 11th.

  • USACE program policy issues

PPAs – Kirsten and Beth gave an update on the outcome from the May 31st coalition meeting. ICWP will take the next month or so to refine messaging and develop supporting documentation, and identify Congressional champions and/or contacts for further engagement. The likely vehicle for this will be ICWP’s WRDA 2024 policy position statement. Upcoming engagement will likely be: June-August – complete inventory/messaging; identify channels for outreach, September – Engage with target Senate/House members as identified (note August recess), October-November – engage with authorizing committees where appropriate. Right now a strong possibility will be to conduct staff briefings for end of July or early August. UMRBA, SRBC agreed to join.

WRDA – ICWP will keep to PPA topic as the main policy issue, others if identified by the next L&P meeting.

  • NIDIS Reauthorization – report from subgroup (UMRBA, SRBC, MO, IL)

Given that Weather Act reauthorization bill introduction by the House Committee on Space, Science and Technology will likely occur in the coming weeks, ICWP needs to be ready to engage soon with the committee to provide input. Individual Committee members may also be targeted for this push. The NIDIS subgroup will reconvene in the next week or two to determine NIDIS program enhancement recommendations and report back for our next L&P meeting.

  • Reauthorization of the National Dam Safety Program – Robby Short and Yohanes (OKWRB)

Yohanes – OKWRB highlighted that the National Dam Safety Program is set to expire this year. They are interested if ICWP would like to take reauthorization as one of its priorities; a possible collaboration with Association of Dam Safety Officials, American Society of Civil Engineers and the National Association of State Floodplain Managers could be in the works. The “how’s” for reauthorization are unknown at this time (i.e.- via WRDA or a standalone bill). This is an important program for many because it applies to all states except Alabama who doesn’t have a dam safety program, with this program FEMA can provide up to 65% of funding, and it is two pronged – state assistance and assistance to dam owners. Beth will talk with ASDSO and others to consider a possible pathway for ICWP.

Notes from OKWRB:

Reauthorization of the National Dam Safety Program

The National Dam Safety Program (NDSP) is one of the most important tools available to protect communities from dam failures. The NDSP provides support, assistance, and guidance to states in establishing and maintaining dam safety programs. As home of more than 4,700 dams, the NDSP program play a critical role in preventing the loss of human life, damage to property, and harm to the environment by implementing safety protocols, emergency planning, and community awareness in Oklahoma.

To ensure that this program continues to provide needed assistance to states, the Twenty-First Century Dams Act includes the following amendments:

Reauthorizes the NDSP for an additional five years through FY 2027 at a funding level of $40 million annually, including $3 million annually to support FEMA staffing needs. This will ensure that the program remains able to provide much needed assistance to State dam safety regulatory programs.

Strikes certain provisions from the law which limit the maximum amount of funding states can receive through the NDSP. Specifically, to remove a provision which says states may not receive funds in excess of 50 percent of the reasonable cost of implementing a state dam safety program, as well as a provision that says federal funds may not exceed state funding for implementation of state dam safety activities. States like Oklahoma with smaller dam safety programs yet disproportionally high number of state jurisdictions dams — the fourth highest number of dams in the nation — will have difficulty meeting these limits given increased state assistance grant funding and would be put at a significant disadvantage. However, larger grant amounts to states are crucial for public safety in-depth engineering assessments as recent dam failures and incidents have shown. There are other existing budgeting requirements in statute that would require a state to have existing state appropriations to carry out the law and that the state will maintain those levels of budget support to the program from sources other than the NDSP grant.

These existing requirements are sufficient to ensure that states will not eliminate state funding for dam safety if they receive a larger state assistance grant amount.

  • Save the date! ICWP’s 2023 Annual Meeting – Sept. 26-27th @ Denver, CO

Beth highlighted that the meeting is scheduled for the SpringHill Suites in downtown Denver. Details to be posted soon on ICWP’s website.

  • Set next meeting — August 3rd @ 2pmCT

Next meeting’s topics:

  • PPAs updates
  • WRDA updates
  • Dam Safety updates
  • IL permitting case study with the USACE – Wes Cattoor. North Dakota? others tbd per Kirsten