WASHINGTON (October 10, 2018) – Today, the U.S. Senate passed, in a 99 to 1 bipartisan vote, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 3021). “With both floods and drought plaguing people and birds across the U.S., the need for urgent action on water policy has never been more clear,” said David Yarnold, (@david_yarnold) president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. “More cement isn’t the answer. This bill provides for more natural infrastructure along our coasts, which is particularly timely as the Gulf and Atlantic coasts get pounded by more frequent and more severe storms.”
The bill includes water projects and policy changes that promote clean water and storm mitigation through restoring barriers like wetlands that benefit birds and people. The U.S. House passed the bill (S.3021) earlier this month.
The following provisions that impact important water and other conservation resources are included in this compromise legislation:
- A requirement that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers consider natural infrastructure alternatives in projects that manage risks from flooding, hurricane and storm damages. Hurricane Florence serves as a reminder of the vulnerability of our coasts, which can be made more resilient with “natural infrastructure” such as wetlands and restored barrier islands. Following the devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, National Audubon Society published a report to highlight the importance of natural infrastructure as the first line of defense for our coasts. http://www.audubon.org/conservation/coastal-resilience.
- Authorization of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir. This project will help store fresh water south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades and recreate a more natural water flow that mimics the historic ecosystem. It provides new water storage options and links up with treatment marshes that remove nutrients from the water. When the more than $3 billion restoration feature is completed, the reservoir can hold water that is currently discharged to sensitive coastal estuaries and move that water south where it is needed rather than allow it to continue to contribute to devastating algal blooms. This critical step makes Audubon’s top priority Everglades project, that is so important for wading birds like the Roseate Spoonbill, eligible for federal construction funding.
- A two fold increase in the number of pilot projects for restoring barrier islands. Audubon has a proven track record of working with the Army Corps of Engineers and states to use dredged material to restore habitat that is important to birds and outdoor recreation economies. This work has created islands that provide excellent nesting habitat for birds such as Black Skimmers, Snowy Plovers, and Least Terns, and is leading innovations in thin-layer dispersal of dredged sediment to protect tidal marsh habitat in the face of sea-level rise.
- Authorizes the Long Island Sound Program in the Environmental Protection Agency. The Long Island Sound is a vital place for an enormous variety of birds and other wildlife: over 1,200 species of invertebrates, 170 species of fish, and dozens of species of migratory birds, including the federally endangered Roseate Tern and federally threatened Piping Plover and Red Knot. It is also supports 54 IBAs (important bird areas) and is home to Great Gull Island, one of the most important tern nesting sites on earth with approximately 10,000 pairs of Common Terns and nearly 2,000 pairs of Roseate Terns. This program funds projects that restore and preserve the Sound and its ecosystems, including wastewater treatment plants updates, wetlands protection and restoration, and abatement of widespread pollutants such as fertilizer, pesticides and oil.
Included in the bill is also a project of concern:
- Approval of the Pearl River Demonstration Project. This damaging project will dam the Pearl River near Jackson, Mississippi, ultimately destroying over 2,500 acres of habitat downstream that supports Bald Eagles, songbirds, and a variety of fish and other wildlife. It will eliminate or alter critical habitat for several state and federally threatened species including the Wood Stork. Audubon will continue to emphasize the need to halt this destructive effort.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using, science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.
Contact: Anne Singer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-271-4679