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Shaheen, Hassan Secure NH Priorities in Bipartisan Water Infrastructure Bill

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) issued the following statements after the Senate passed by a vote of 92-2 the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) of 2022, biennial legislation that authorizes water infrastructure projects across the country.

The House of Representatives previously passed its WRDA legislation in June. Both chambers will next conference on the legislation to reach a final agreement before it is considered by Congress and sent to the President’s desk. 

“I’m proud to share the New Hampshire priorities included in this legislation, which build on efforts in previous years that successfully led to the dredging of Rye and Hampton-Seabrook Harbors, as well as current work underway in Portsmouth Harbor and on the Piscataqua River Navigation project. This biennial legislation is a critical tool to deliver on urgently needed Granite State projects and I’m glad WRDA 2022 does precisely that,” said Senator Shaheen. “Not only does this bill make important investments in issues like coastal resiliency and bolstering our STEM workforce, but I was also excited to specifically add provisions that address local needs, which include helping the Town of Lancaster proceed with removing the Israel River Dam to respond to safety concerns due to deteriorating conditions. I look forward to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to see these provisions included in final legislation.” 

“This bipartisan legislation will support New Hampshire and our country’s economy and environment, helping to address ongoing supply chain challenges that have contributed to the high costs that Americans are facing,” said Senator Hassan. “We have seen just how important dredging projects are to strengthening the Portsmouth Harbor, and I am pleased that this bipartisan bill builds on the progress we’ve made by continuing to support our harbor. In addition, it includes key priorities that Senator Shaheen and I pushed for to dredge our rivers, remove the Israel River Dam, and maintain other dams and waterways.”     

WRDA contains several New Hampshire priorities that Shaheen and Hassan worked to secure, including: 

  • Prioritization of Maintenance Dredging for Small Harbors: The WRDA 2022 bill includes a provision requiring the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) to develop criteria for the annual evaluation and ranking of maintenance dredging needs for small, remote and subsistence harbors, like those in New Hampshire, and include such criteria in the annual Civil Works Direct Program Development Policy Guidance of the Corps. The provision also requires a biennial report to Congress that identifies the ranking of projects based on the criteria developed. This would provide much improved structure and transparency related to the Corps’ use of funding specifically appropriated for small, remote and subsistence harbors, which will benefit Rye and Hampton Harbor. 
  • Investments in the STEM Workforce: The bill strengthens the infrastructure workforce by fostering careers in STEM fields. The bill authorizes the Corps to carry out activities to strengthen STEM education awareness and recruit men and women in these fields for careers with the Corps. It allows the Corps to partner with nonprofits, colleges and universities, and technical schools to carry out these activities, and prioritizes recruitment of individuals from underserved communities. 
  • Strengthened Coastal Protections from the Impacts of Climate Change: The bill streamlines the implementation of shoreline protection and restoration projects to aid communities most vulnerable to coastal storms. The bill also authorizes the Corps to modify shore protection projects during the performance of emergency restoration activities to increase resiliency. In addition, the bill includes language enabling communities to partner with the Corps to develop water resources projects that directly address risks of extreme weather. 
  • De-authorize the ice dam on the Israel River so the town of Lancaster can proceed with removal. 

Senator Shaheen specifically worked to include several other Granite State priorities, including: 

  • Expedite the maintenance dredging of the Simplex/Tyco shoal in the Piscataqua River. The Army Corps of Engineers has already announced $1.685 million in funding toward this project as part of funding secured by Shaheen and Hassan in the bipartisan infrastructure law. 
  • Expedite the maintenance dredging of portions of Sagamore Creek that were not previously dredged in 2017. 

Shaheen has long worked to secure key provisions in the biennial legislation that led to the successful dredging of Portsmouth Harbor and the prioritization of the Piscataqua River Navigation project. Shaheen first secured authorization for the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project as part of the 2016 WRDA. Since then, Shaheen and Hassan have worked with the rest of 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, Shaheen received assurance from R.D. James, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, that the project would be a priority for the Corps. Last January, Shaheen announced that the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River navigation improvement project was included in the Corp’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 work plan, following her urging and repeated efforts to secure critical funding for the Corps. Dredging has since gotten underway, which has also been supported by the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Shaheen and Hassan negotiated. In April, the New Hampshire delegation announced an additional $2.4 million from the bipartisan infrastructure bill for Corps projects in the Granite State.  

As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen helped procure and Hassan supported $8.4 billion for the Corps to complete necessary infrastructure projects in New Hampshire and across the country in FY 2022 government funding legislation that the President signed into law. This is $548 million above last year’s funding level and included funding for small harbors that require off-cycle, emergency dredging, like those in New Hampshire. This language is to help ensure the Corps continues to monitor and address shoaling within Portsmouth Harbor and problem areas further up along the Piscataqua River. Shaheen’s success in urging the Corps to prioritize the Portsmouth-Piscataqua River Project followed her successful efforts to push the Corps to complete dredging of Rye and Hampton-Seabrook Harbors.

The bill text of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022 is available here.