Shaheen & Hassan Secure NH Priorities in Bipartisan Water Infrastructure and Drinking Water Bills

May 07, 2020

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) issued the following statements in response to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ (EPW) unanimous approval of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2020 and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act (DWIA) of 2020, two pieces of biennial legislation that authorize water infrastructure projects and drinking water programs around the country.

Shaheen and Hassan helped secure several New Hampshire priorities in the bill to:

  • Direct the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) to provide priority funding for and to expedite the completion of the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project;
  • Require the Corps to expedite authorized activities to address shoaling impacts at Rye Harbor; and
  • Extend the use of the Cape Arundel Disposal Site, the primary site for placement of dredged materials from the harbors of New Hampshire and Maine, to ensure continuation of a regional disposal site for dredging projects.

In addition, Senator Shaheen led efforts to mobilize federal resources for the remediation of emerging contaminants in drinking water, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The DWIA authorizes $300 million for grants that can be used to treat PFAS in underground sources of drinking water, including private wells.

“I’m very pleased the committee heeded my calls and included these important provisions to respond directly to serious concerns about New Hampshire’s waterways and water supplies,” said Senator Shaheen. “Prioritizing the completion of these vital navigation improvement projects is necessary to keep our fishermen safe and ensure the economic vitality of our coastal communities. Additionally, this robust investment to remediate our water sources that have been contaminated by potentially dangerous chemicals is a necessary step to safeguard public health. For too long, PFAS exposure in drinking water supplies has kept impacted families awake at night – that’s unacceptable. I appreciate the bipartisan work that produced this legislation and I’ll work to see this bill through Congress, and ultimately, signed into law.”

“From strengthening navigation safety on the Piscataqua River, to addressing the significant shoaling at Rye Harbor, and improving our state’s dredging capacity, these bipartisan bills will help bolster our state’s water infrastructure and expand opportunity for our fishermen,” said Senator Hassan. “In addition to those important provisions, I am pleased to see that additional federal funding will be made available to clean up PFAS contamination in New Hampshire and across the country. I appreciate the committee’s bipartisan work, and will continue pushing to get these bills swiftly passed into law.”  

The Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project would widen the uppermost turning basin of the Piscataqua River from 800 feet to 1,200 feet, which would improve navigation safety. Due to its current narrow width, vessels navigating the river – including liquefied petroleum gas tankers and other bulk shippers – face significant safety risks and transit restrictions. Shaheen first secured authorization for the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project as part of the 2016 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Since then, she has worked with the New Hampshire congressional delegation to prioritize the project, specifically including language in the 2018 WRDA urging the Corps to expedite the project. During a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in March, Shaheen received assurance from R.D. James, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, that this project would be a priority for the Corps.

As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen helped procure more than $7 billion for the Corps to complete necessary infrastructure projects in New Hampshire and across the country in fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding legislation that the President signed into law. This is $651 million above last year’s funding level and included the funding necessary to dredge Rye Harbor. In February, the Corps released their fiscal year 2020 work plan, which provided $4 million to complete dredging work at Rye Harbor – a direct result of Shaheen’s legislative efforts to secure the funding and support needed for the project. This followed Shaheen’s successful efforts to address the need for emergency dredging at Hampton-Seabrook Harbor by directing the Corps to prioritize off-cycle, emergency dredging in its Work Plans. Following calls from Shaheen and Hassan, the Corps included $4.6 million in their 2019 Work Plan to dredge the harbor, which has since been completed.

Senator Shaheen has spearheaded efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination, respond to the chemical exposure and remediate polluted sites. In March, Shaheen introduced landmark legislation, which Hassan cosponsored, to help communities combat PFAS contamination and exposure by providing substantial federal funding for PFAS remediation in drinking water and groundwater, including private wells. Provisions from this legislation were included in the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act, as was another supported by Shaheen and Hassan that requires the Environmental Protection Agency to establish national drinking water standards for two of the most common PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS. Senator Shaheen established the first-ever nationwide health study on the impact of PFAS chemicals in drinking water in 2017. The pilot study at Pease, which Shaheen fought for, began last fall.

The bill text of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 is available here. The bill text of the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 is here.