U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell helped secure several priorities benefitting Kentucky in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which passed the Senate today. Senator McConnell talked about the legislation and the Kentucky impact on the Senate floor this morning. The legislation must be passed in the House of Representatives before being sent the President for enactment.
“If enacted, the bipartisan legislation the Senate passed today will help support Kentucky’s vital water infrastructure, give more control to Kentucky communities, and assist with flood protection in the Commonwealth,” Senator McConnell said. “I am pleased the bill supports several projects in Kentucky that are important to me, to my constituents, and to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. One will transfer aging infrastructure along the Green and Barren Rivers in Kentucky over to state and local entities so they can determine the best use of this infrastructure. Another will help my constituents in Paducah better protect themselves from flooding from the Ohio River by helping complete repairs to the city’s flood protection infrastructure.”
Senator McConnell supported the following provisions which will benefit Kentucky:
Transfer of Green and Barren Rivers infrastructure: The bill would authorize the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to transfer certain inoperable lock and dam infrastructure along the Green and Barren Rivers in Kentucky to state and local entities so they can determine the best use of this infrastructure. The Senate WRDA bill authorizes the disposition of Green River Locks and Dams 3, 4, 5, and 6 and Barren River Lock and Dam 1. The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and many stakeholders in the Mammoth Cave community have prioritized deauthorizing Dam 6 on the Green River with the goal of eventually removing the infrastructure to restore natural flows and enhance river-based recreation and tourism in the area. Green River Lock and Dam 3, also known as the Rochester Dam, serves as a vital water source for people and businesses in six counties who for years have sought local control of the infrastructure so it can be repaired and better maintained. The provision Senator McConnell secured would provide for the transfer of the Rochester Dam to the Rochester Dam Regional Water Commission.
Butler County Judge/Executive David Fields thanked Senator McConnell for his work on the issue: “Today we reached a major milestone on the road to gaining local control of the Rochester Dam. The Rochester Dam is vital to our community’s water supply. There is still much work to be done. We could not have gotten this far, however, without the experienced leadership of Senator McConnell.”
Mike Hensley, Green River Project Director for the Nature Conservancy, said they “deeply appreciate Senator McConnell’s support… we are grateful to Senator McConnell for his leadership and hard work on the Green and Barren rivers’ locks and dams. Removing this aging infrastructure from federal ownership presents an enormous opportunity to secure water supply, economic, recreation, and conservation wins for the region.”
Walt Beasley, General Manager of the Ohio County Water District, said, “Senator McConnell understands the vital importance of the Rochester Dam. He and his staff have worked with us and provided guidance throughout this process. Without Senator McConnell’s leadership and his passion for protecting our water supply, the transfer of the Rochester Dam to the Rochester Dam Regional Water Commission would not have been included in the WRDA Bill. Passage of the WRDA Bill by the Senate takes us one step closer to securing the water supply for approximately 50,000 persons residing in six counties. In addition, businesses and industries employing nearly 20,000 workers draw their water from Pool 3 of the Green River. For over a decade we have been actively working to inform state and federal officials of the importance of Pool 3 and the critical need to repair and stabilize the Rochester Dam.”
Paducah Flood Protection Infrastructure Authorization Increase: This provision would help people living in Paducah, Kentucky, better protect themselves, their homes, and their businesses from flooding by increasing a federal authorization cap that would allow the City to complete its vital flood protection infrastructure repair project. For years, officials in Paducah have worked with the USACE Louisville district to update and repair the city’s aging floodwall and shoreline infrastructure to better protect its citizens from flooding along the Ohio River. In order to complete the project, Congress must raise the project’s authorization cap, which this bill would do to an amount over $31 million. Once enacted, this authorization increase will allow the City and the USACE to complete the priority flood protection project with additional appropriations.
Paducah Mayor Gayle Kaler thanked Senator McConnell for securing the provision in the Senate WRDA bill: “When completed, this important flood protection repair project will better protect the citizens and business of Paducah. Senator McConnell doesn’t just understand Paducah’s priorities, he makes them his own and we are very appreciative of his leadership on our behalf.”
Senator McConnell also supported two other provisions that will benefit Kentucky:
· State approval for coal combustion residual (or “Coal Ash”) units. This measure would give states the authority to develop their own permitting systems for the recycling and reuse of coal ash in a safe and effective manner that’s in line with current federal requirements. If enacted, this authority will provide much needed clarity to Kentucky’s utility providers who produce the coal ash as well as the businesses who recycle and reuse the byproduct to manufacture various commonly used and sustainable materials, such as concrete.
“On behalf of the nearly 1.7 million people who are served by Kentucky’s electric cooperatives, we want to thank Senator McConnell for his continued leadership and understanding of how federal regulations affect real people,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Association Electric Cooperatives. “The coal ash provision resolves an important issue for Kentucky energy providers. By asserting state oversight of coal ash use and disposal, this legislation helps protect Kentucky energy users. Without it, the lack of regulatory clarity exposed utilities to potential litigation which would threaten their ability to cost effectively serve the people at the end of line.”
· A provision authored by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) dealing with water withdrawal fees at Lake Cumberland. Senator Paul’s amendment would prevent USACE from charging user fees and a yearly operating and maintenance fee to several cities and local businesses for withdrawing water from Lake Cumberland.
“From the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay to the inland waterways that are so important to Kentucky’s maritime jobs, America’s waterways play a crucial role in supporting the economy, transporting goods and people from point A to point B, and supplying communities with drinking water,” Senator McConnell said. “This responsible water resources bill authorizes more than two dozen Army Corps projects from the east coast to the west, and it’s expected to save taxpayers $6 million over the next decade. It’s also completely paid for. The projects authorized in this bill range from strengthening our waterways infrastructure to helping support safe and reliable drinking water sources. They also invest in priorities each of us cares about like improving public health and safety, enhancing commerce, and supporting America’s ecosystems.”