Essex River, Massachusetts

Vote Explanation for S. 612 — Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act

From maritime trade and commercial fishing, to recreational boating and eco-tourism, the Sixth District of Massachusetts relies on the continued upkeep of our rivers, harbors, and coastlines to spur economic growth and protect our communities from the effects of climate change.

This week, I voted in support of S. 612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, which combines portions of the House and Senate-passed Water Resources Development Act bills. The legislation authorizes more than $10 billion in water resources development projects to be studied, planned, and carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

S. 612 also authorizes funding to assist the families of Flint, Michigan and the surrounding communities that have been suffering from contaminated public drinking water. For over two years, Flint has been without clean drinking water after high levels of lead were found in the water system. The resources in this bill are a major step towards providing the families of Flint with much needed relief.

The bill also contains provisions that directly benefit Massachusetts and the Sixth District, including:

  • Legislation I introduced earlier this year that would allow for dredging in the Essex River. The Essex River Jobs and Recreation Act would re-designates boundaries around the federal channel in order to eliminate encroachment issues from piers and docks, freeing the Town of Essex to dredge the upper part of the river as it approaches the downtown Causeway. Local officials and the U.S. Coast Guard have called for this project for years to ensure public safety on the waterway.
  • Authorization for the transfer of the New England District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move to Hanscom Air Force Base. This move will save operating expenses and allow the Army Corps to work more collaboratively with other executive agencies.

While there are a lot of good things in this legislation, I am deeply concerned about the inclusion of a controversial California water provision that would authorize the pumping of water from the northern part of the state down to the Central Valley. This effort is in direct violation of environmental protection laws and undermines steps taken at the state level to effectively distribute water throughout California.

While imperfect as most pieces of legislation are, S. 612 makes vital investments in our water infrastructure that benefits our economy, our health, and our district. Massachusetts and the Sixth District have much to gain from the passage of this legislation, and I am hopeful it will reach the President’s Desk before the new year.