Includes: Authorization of New Studies and Projects to Address Lake Ontario Flooding, Restore Hudson River Ecosystems, Protect the Rockaways and Long Island From Future Storms and Flooding, and More

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today announced that, following their push, essential provisions to protect and harness New York’s water resources are included in the final 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

In the legislation, called “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020,” the senators secured language that would authorize new studies and projects to protect communities across New York and restore critical ecosystems in the Hudson River Estuary. This includes authorization for a new feasibility study for Lake Ontario coastal resiliency, as well as authorization to construct the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Project, the Army Corps East Rockaway Inlet to Rockaway Inlet and Jamaica Bay Hurricane Sandy Reformulation Project, the Hashamomuck Cove coastal storm risk management project, and several projects critical to New York’s water resources, navigation and watershed restoration. The bill also includes language to expedite completion of many new projects, including the Lake Montauk Harbor Navigation Project, key to New York’s water restoration, risk management, and navigation. Schumer and Gillibrand secured a report on emergency flood protection for lakes in the new legislation, a critical piece to improving the use of existing Army Corps authorities for Lake Ontario flood protection.

“In order to protect our communities from flooding, preserve our shorelines, and restore New York’s precious water ecosystems, it is imperative that we properly rehabilitate our invaluable resources through the Water Resources Development Act every year,” said Senator Schumer. “I am proud to have secured so many vital projects this year that will help preserve and improve water resources in New York, including addressing harmful algal blooms, mitigating Lake Ontario flooding, protecting the Hudson River, and restoring Jamaica Bay. These projects are vital to ensuring New York’s long-term water resource viability, and I will work tirelessly to get the WRDA across the finish line.”

“Throughout the year I have fought to secure important projects to protect New York’s water resources in this year’s Water Resources Development Act. I’m pleased that so many new projects have been authorized, including a key study to improve shoreline resiliency and flood protection along Lake Ontario, which has experienced repetitive flooding in recent years,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Army Corps of Engineers. “These projects will make our state more resilient to the impacts of climate change and restore important ecosystems like the Hudson River Estuary and Jamaica Bay. I’m proud to have secured these critical provisions for our state in this bill and I will continue working until it is signed into law.” 

“Riverkeeper is grateful for the leadership of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand in securing improvements to fully incorporate sea-level rise in the Army Corps’ studies to protect New Yorkers,” said Jeremy Cherson, Legislative Advocacy Manager for Riverkeeper. “These changes ensure that as we confront the challenges of climate change together, we will not sacrifice the health of the Hudson River or leave disadvantaged communities behind.”

WRDA authorizes water resources studies and projects and sets policies for navigation, flood control, hydropower, recreation, water supply, and emergency management for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps). The final legislative text, which passed in the House and is set to appear on the Senate floor for votes in coming days, includes the following provisions for New York State following successful pushes from Senators Schumer and Gillibrand:

  • Authorization for a new feasibility study for Lake Ontario coastal storm resiliency which will specifically look at ways to improve shoreline resiliency and flood protection along Lake Ontario. The study will allow the Army Corps to identify specific actions needed to better protect the shoreline from flooding due to high water levels and coastal erosion — both have caused significant damage for communities in Central and Western New York, as well as along the St. Lawrence Seaway. The senators also secured authorization for a new study of Wading River Creek.
  • Authorization of the East Rockaway Inlet to Rockaway Inlet and Jamaica Bay Sandy Reformulation Project, which will give authority to the Army Corps to complete initial construction of the project at full federal expense. It will also authorize maintenance of the project once construction is complete. Following a push from Gillibrand and Schumer, the language ensures that if money runs out before construction is complete, the Corps can finish construction without having to seek a cost share from a local sponsor.  
  • Authorization of the Hashamomuck Cove Coastal Storm Risk Management Project which will authorize the Army Corps to construct the project on Long Island to reduce coastal storm and erosion risks to critical infrastructure, including County Road 48.   
  • Authorization of a new Harmful Algal Bloom Demonstration Program to determine the causes of and implement measures to effectively detect, prevent, treat, and eliminate harmful algal blooms which can be toxic to humans and pets and threaten recreational economies. The program specifies focus areas for study that include the Great Lakes and the Allegheny Reservoir Watershed.
  • Authorization of construction funding for projects including: Hudson-Raritan Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Project, Westchester County Streams Flood Risk Management Project, Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Project (FIMP), Hudson River Habitat Restoration Project, and the NY-NJ Harbor Anchorages Project.
  • Language to expedite completion of feasibility studies by the Army Corps, including: Lake Montauk Harbor Navigation Project, Goldsmith Inlet Navigation Project, rehabilitation of Lock E-32, Erie Canal, Pittsford, Navigation and shoreline stabilization for Reel Point Reserve, flood risk management for Rondout Creek-Wallkill River Watershed, and ecosystem restoration and hurricane and storm risk reduction for Howard Beach, Queens.
  • Modification of the NY/NJ Harbor and Tributaries project which would require the Army Corps to evaluate and address the impacts of low-frequency precipitation and sea-level rise on the study area and consult with the affected communities.
  • Language requiring the Army Corps to provide technical assistance to the non-federal sponsors and stakeholders for the following projects in New York as part of the Army Corps’ process for recommending studies that are ready for authorization:
    • Study of the resiliency of the Allegheny Reservoir, NY.
    • Feasibility study for the rehabilitation of the tainter gates and guard gate, Caughdenoy Dam, NY.
    • Project to repair the West Pier and West Barrier Pier, Little Sodus Bay.
    • Project for the repair of sheet pile wall and east breakwater, Great Sodus Bay.
    • Feasibility study for a navigation project for the Port of Oswego.
    • Feasibility study for the potential projects for the rehabilitation of the Glens Falls Feeder Canal, which begins at the Feeder Dam intersection with the Hudson River in Queensbury, NY, and runs to the confluence of the Old Champlain Canal in Kingsbury, NY.
    • Environmental assistance project for sanitary sewer upgrades for Village of Whitehall, NY.
  • The Report on Emergency Flood Protection for Lakes, which will require a report on the extent to which the Army Corps’ emergency fund for responding to natural disasters, typically river flooding, applies to lake flooding. The report will make recommendations on any statutory changes needed to ensure that lakes are eligible for the program.


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