U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) today announced Senate passage of the House-approved Water Resources Development Act, sending the bipartisan legislation to the President for his signature. The final legislation successfully included Warner-Kaine amendments which resolved issues specific to three Virginia water projects: One advances the Craney Island expansion at the Port of Virginia, a second authorizes funding for Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration programs, and a third Warner-Kaine amendment provided a technical correction that supports efforts to restore Four Mile Run in Northern Virginia as a recreational resource.
“Our amendments provide common-sense fixes that allow us to continue making progress on important Virginia priorities,” Sen. Warner said. “We have cut red tape to provide a land transfer that supports the Craney Island expansion – a port expansion project that will strengthen Virginia’s economy and support thousands of jobs. In addition, we protected funding for Bay oyster restoration efforts, which will help restore the health of the Bay while also generating income for Virginia’s working watermen.”
“Seven years since Congress last enacted a WRDA bill – and almost a year since the Senate first passed this legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support – it is gratifying to be able to send a bill to the President with so many benefits for Virginia,” said Sen. Kaine. “This bill secures a land transfer necessary to advance the Craney Island Marine Terminal, a key project that will help make the Port of Virginia one of the most competitive post-Panamax ports on the eastern seaboard and will have transformative economic impacts throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. It also advances improvements to Four Mile Run in Alexandria by adjusting the flood channel width and makes it easier for localities and conservation groups to contribute costs to Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration projects. Today we demonstrated that Congress is capable of setting aside budgetary gimmicks and gridlock to get back to business.”
The Craney Island amendment authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to convey certain areas of Portsmouth’s Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area (CIDMMA) to the Virginia Port Authority (VPA). Currently, the CIDMMA is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), including construction of the Craney Island Eastward Expansion authorized by the 2007 WRDA. Presently the VPA, in partnership with the USACE, is engaged in a multi-year project to develop a 600-acre site on the east side of Craney Island that will be the footprint to Craney Island Marine Terminal, which will be Virginia’s fourth state-owned marine terminal.
“The development of Craney Island is a very important component in future of The Port of Virginia,” said John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “Having the ownership of the land transferred to the Commonwealth of Virginia from the federal government via this legislation puts the project in the state’s hands. There are multiple steps in the process to see this project through to completion and this is a critical step. The continued hard work done by Virginia’s congressional delegation on this and other parts of the Craney Island East Ward Expansion project over the years has been resolute and supportive; the delegation has served the Commonwealth’s interests and we are appreciative of their support.”
The Oyster Restoration amendment sets the authorized funding level for oyster restoration at $60 million, which represents a compromise between House and Senate funding levels. It also specifies that conservation projects adjacent to – or close to – oyster restoration sites could qualify as non-federal cost share for a Corps oyster recovery project if these projects provide water quality benefits that help oyster restoration efforts. This expands the activities eligible for non-federal cost share of oyster restoration, making it easier for localities or conservation groups to participate in these important projects.
The Four Mile Run amendment makes a technical fix to Northern Virginia’s Four Mile Run flood protection project authorization. Since 2003, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria have been working with the Army Corps of Engineers to restore the Four Mile Run for recreational use. This amendment updates the flow rate to provide 100-year flood plain protection while permitting the Four Mile Run restoration project to move forward.