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June 10, 2014 -

Bipartisan Water Resources Bill Signed Into Law

Barrasso provisions included in the law will help prevent floods in Wyoming, cut wasteful spending, help rural communities comply with federal regulations, and protect Wyoming’s water rights.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, released the following statement after President Obama signed into law the bipartisan Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA).  WRRDA authorizes the Army Corp of Engineers to improve and maintain dams, inland waterways, ports, and projects to prevent flooding and ensure water delivery to communities.  

“This bipartisan law is going to save lives and property from flood and drought, cut wasteful spending and protect Wyoming’s water rights,” said Barrasso. “Wyoming will soon have the resources we need to restore stream gauges and snow pack monitors—tools that are critical for predicting floods and preparing for them.  This law will also ensure rural communities have better access to water project financing and more help in complying with confusing Washington red tape. I’ll continue to work to improve our aging water infrastructure and keep folks in Wyoming safe.” 

"As water managers, often the most important information we use is basic data describing such things as contemporaneous streamflow and snowpack,” said Wyoming State Engineer Patrick Tyrell.  “Without this information, or with insufficient geographic coverage, water managers grope for answers to questions that run the gamut from scarce water supplies to flood emergency plans to seasonal runoff forecasts.  I am very pleased to see the additional support for streamgaging this important bill provides." 

“We thank Senator Barrasso for his assistance and leadership in proposing and including technical assistance for rural systems in the WRRDA,” said Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems Executive Director Mark Pepper.  “Any technical assistance for rural America is a good thing and helps small rural systems maintain compliance and provide safe affordable drinking water. Since most, if not all of Wyoming is rural, the provisions for technical assistance will be very beneficial.  We are also pleased to see another funding source for rural communities to access for system upgrades, expansion and major improvement.  Coupled with the continued current SRF funding, these two funding sources should allow rural systems to continue to provide ‘Quality on Tap’ drinking water not just in Wyoming but in all rural communities.”

Barrasso, a member of the Conference Committee on WRRDA, successfully included provisions to the law that will: 
  • cut waste in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ budget, 
  • restore important stream gauges that monitor flooding and drought,
  • provide funding for rural communities to comply with federal regulations, 
  • and protect Wyoming water rights and give communities and tribes access to water project financing.
Background on the Barrasso Provisions Included in Final WRRDA Agreement:

Deauthorization Process – Senator Barrasso authored and secured language that will set up a process that will allow for an up or down vote in Congress on cutting $18 billion in projects supplied by the head of the Army Corps after a public comment period. $18 billion is more than enough to offset the total, entire authorization of this piece of legislation. 

Upper Missouri Basin Flood and Drought Monitoring – Senator Barrasso secured language that authorizes the Secretary, in coordination with NOAA, NRCS, USGS, and the Bureau of Reclamation, to restore the stream gauges and snow pack monitors through the Upper Missouri Basin.  These gauges are used to monitor snow depth and soil moisture to help inform agencies like the Corps as to potential flooding and drought.  

Rural Water Technical Assistance – Senator Barrasso authored and secured technical assistance funding to help rural communities comply with environmental regulations.  Rural communities often do not have the expertise or funding to make important upgrades to their water systems as a result of environmental mandates.  It also reauthorizes a regional program in Idaho, Montana, rural Nevada, New Mexico, rural Utah, and Wyoming to provide water infrastructure assistance to communities in these states.  

Protecting Wyoming Water Rights – Senator Barrasso secured language to protect Wyoming water rights in the Northern Rockies Headwaters Extreme weather title.  This section allows environmental groups to apply for funding to manage “instream flows restoration projects” and do “floodplain restoration” along the headwaters of the Columbia, Missouri, and Yellowstone Rivers and their tributaries. Barrasso secured language that states that “Nothing in this section invalidates, preempts, or creates any exception to State water law, State water rights, or Federal or State permitted activities or agreements in the States of Idaho and Montana, or any State containing tributaries to rivers in those States.”

Helping Communities Secure Water Project Financing – Senator Barrasso secured language to make communities and tribes eligible for loans that can go to repairing and replacing of an aging water distribution facility or a community water system.