Major Upgrades Expected for Washington Ports, Rivers, Salmon, Wetlands, As Water Resources Development Act Passes Senate

Cantwell, Murray Push Forward Critical Port, Water and Salmon Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022 by a vote of 93-1. U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), fought to secure language in the bill that would provide funding for critical port, water resource and salmon restoration projects in Washington state. The Senate will now work with the House of Representatives to move a bicameral bill forward to be considered by the House and Senate.

“Senate passage of the Water Resources Development Act is a major step forward for Washington state waterways, ports, and salmon,” said Senator Cantwell. “This funding will support key infrastructure projects, like deepening the Blair waterway in Tacoma to increase competitiveness at the port and dredging the Port of Clarkston to boost tourism, it will open more than 100 miles of salmon habitat by constructing fish passage at Howard Hanson Dam, and support water storage innovations, like ground water and aquifer storage. I look forward to ensuring that these and other Washington state projects get underway soon.”

 “Salmon recovery has got to be a major federal priority—it’s my job to make sure it is and this year’s Water Resources Development Act has us headed in the right direction,” said Senator Murray. “The provisions Senator Cantwell and I fought to secure will go a long way in restoring critical salmon habitat, make important investments our water transportation infrastructure, and helping to ensure every family has access to clean, safe drinking water. This legislation is good news for our salmon, good news for our ports, and good news for our entire state.”

Below is a full list of all Washington state projects included in the Senate-passed WRDA Bill:

Howard A. Hanson Dam Downstream Fish Passage Facility:

WRDA will authorize construction of the Howard A. Hanson Dam Downstream Fish Passage, which will open at least 100 miles of prime salmon and steelhead habitat above the Howard A. Hanson Dam in Pierce County, nearly doubling the amount of habitat currently available. Completing the downstream fish passage facility will also allow the Additional Water Storage Project for the Green River to move forward, ensuring clean water to surrounding communities.

Tacoma Harbor Deepening:

WRDA will allow the Army Corps to deepen the Blair Waterway at the Port of Tacoma. The current authorized depth of the federal channel in Tacoma’s Blair Waterway does not meet the draft requirements of today’s fleet of larger container ships, which means these ships can’t call on the Port of Tacoma. Deepening the waterway will allow for these ships to call on the Port of Tacoma, creating more economic opportunity for the Port, Seaport Alliance and surrounding community.

Dredging at the Port of Clarkston:

Directs the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Port of Clarkston, ensuring vessels can continue passage. Maintenance of the Snake River between Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington is critical to support safe and efficient navigation. Over 8.6 million tons of cargo are moved by barge on the inland portion of the Columbia Snake River System that feeds the deep draft lower Columbia River which transported over 56 million tons of cargo in 2018. In any given year, nearly 10% of the U.S. wheat exports transit the Snake River and the river cruise industry on the Columbia Snake River System provided over 25,000 cruise passengers in 2019, with over $15M in direct economic benefits to the region.

Duckabush Estuary Restoration:

Directs the Army Corps of Engineers to consider taking further action and providing resources to reconnect the Duckabush River to neighboring floodplains and wetlands by modifying local roads, elevating Highway 101, and rerouting utilities. This is a critical step in the removal and replacement of the Highway 101 causeway and bridges and in the larger Puget Sound Nearshore Restoration Project which is restoring nearshore habitat throughout Puget Sound.

Columbia River Treaty Flood Protection

WRDA directs the Army Corps to study one of the key pillars in the efforts to modernize the Columbia River Treaty regime: flood control in the Columbia River Basin. The Columbia River Basin experiences high annual runoff, variation in flows and a limited amount of water storage in the United States portion of the Columbia River Basin. The WRDA bill authorizes a study to evaluate how to improve water storage and flood control in the Columbia River Basin.

Army Corps Aquifer Recharge and Water Supply Conservation: 

Directs the Army Corps to evaluate alternative water storage processes, such as aquifer recharge and groundwater storage, when addressing flood storage and water conservation projects. This will lead to innovative solutions to water conservation and storage challenges that Washington state and states throughout the West face.

Expanding Mitigation Banking:

Allows for more entities to use mitigation banking credits and help process mitigation banking credits. A mitigation bank is a wetland, stream, or other aquatic resource area that has been restored, established, enhanced, or preserved for the purpose of providing compensation for unavoidable impacts to aquatic resources when there are port, flood control or water supply projects. This is a big deal for our ports that undertake many types of projects that require mitigation banking to support supply chain efficiency and resilience, safety, job growth, and economic development which benefits the community and promotes stability of the region. 

Columbia River Village Development Plan:

Requires the Army Corps of Engineers to revise and complete the village development plan for Dalles Dam, Columbia River, Washington and Oregon to address the impacts to Indian villages and housing sites that resulted from construction of multiple dams by the Corps in the Columbia River Basin. When the Dalles Lock and Dam in Oregon was constructed in the 1950s, Tribal villages in Celilo, Oregon and Spearfish, Washington were inundated and lost. The Flood Control Act of 1950 authorized the construction of a replacement village to compensate the four Columbia River Treaty Tribes: the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation; the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation; the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; and the Nez Perce Tribe. 

Columbia River Ecosystem Restoration Study:

Directs the Army Corps to study salmon recovery and restoration throughout the Columbia River Basin and its tributaries.

A one-page summary on WRDA 2022 is available HERE, a section-by-section summary is available HERE.