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Jaime Herrera Beutler Secures Funding for Columbia River Maintenance, Small Port Dredging and Hanford Cleanup

Energy and Water Appropriations bill to improve water infrastructure passes U.S. House committee

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Washington, DC, April 22, 2015 | comments
Today, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved its Energy and Water Appropriations bill that included funding for Columbia River maintenance, small port dredging and Hanford cleanup championed by Jaime Herrera Beutler.
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Today, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved its Energy and Water Appropriations bill that included funding for Columbia River maintenance, small port dredging and Hanford cleanup championed by Jaime Herrera Beutler. As a first-year member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, Jaime helped craft this spending bill that sets spending levels for the Department of Energy, improves our nation’s water infrastructure and saves $633 million from the President’s budget request.

“I’m proud of a fiscally sound bill that ensures Northwest waterways are working and protected,” said Jaime. “Our local economy is uniquely reliant on one of the greatest river systems in the world, and our tax dollars should be carefully spent to make sure that continues. Whether it’s the ongoing maintenance our small ports need to survive, Hanford cleanup resources, protection against destructive quagga mussels, or preservation of private property rights, this bill focuses on the right priorities for Southwest Washington.”

Southwest Washington priorities included in this bill:

Funding for dredging and harbor maintenance:

  • The bill includes $2.4 billion for navigation projects including $1.178 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF).
  • Background: The HMTF was created with the purpose of waterway and port maintenance and is funded by a tax importers pay when using U.S. ports. Historically, the fund takes in millions of dollars more each year than is expended.
  • These funds guarantee the Columbia River is maintained and can continue transporting goods through Southwest Washington and to the rest of the globe.
  • It continues funding for the ongoing construction and rehabilitation projects on the jetties at the mouth of the Columbia River, which are critical for safe river  navigation.
  • It includes a $42.5 million set-aside for dredging and maintenance of small ports like Chinook, Ilwaco and many others on the Columbia River.

Protects businesses and property owners from water rights infringements by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

This bill prohibits funding for the federal government to implement its massive expansion of jurisdiction over waters on public and private property owners. 

Background: In September of 2014, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and EPA released a new definition of “waters of the U.S.” that changed 42 years of Clean Water Act policy to allow the federal government to regulate every ditch, man-made pond, and seasonally wet area on public and private property as “navigable water.” Specifically, the new definition expanded federal authority to require private land owners, farmers, businesses, cities, and counties to obtain new permits for use of these broadly defined wet areas.  A Supreme Court case from 2006 cited the cost of a Clean Water Act permit at $270,000 that, on average, takes 788 days to obtain. Penalties for violation of the Clean Water Act can be up to $37,500 per day. Jaime has helped lead a bipartisan effort to restore 42 years of Clean Water Act protection.

Funding to Keep Our Waters Free from Invasive Species:

The bill includes first time funding of $4,000,000 for the Army Corps to assist other federal and state agencies with boat inspections to prevent the spread of quagga mussels into our waters. Quagga mussels are an invasive species indigenous to Ukraine. They have wreaked havoc in the Great Lakes, and there is a broad effort to prevent their spread to Pacific Northwest waters.

Funding for Hanford Cleanup:

The bill restores $75 million of the President's proposed cut for Hanford's Richland Operations Office and includes funding to continue work at the Office of River Protection on a strategy to retrieve, treat and vitrify the waste currently in underground tanks. It also continues work to move Yucca Mountain forward, and stop this presidential administration’s illegal attempts to shut down this critical component of Hanford cleanup.

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