Infrastructure bill funds urgent clean water and river restoration needs

November 6, 2021

November 6, 2021

Contact: Amy Souers Kober, 503-708-1145

American Rivers today applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill which contains significant funding for rivers and clean water nationwide. A key highlight of the package is the $2.4 billion that American Rivers helped secure for the removal, rehabilitation and retrofit of dams nationwide.

When President Biden signs the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law, communities will benefit from critically needed investments in water infrastructure, river restoration and flood protection. 

Now, the Senate must act with urgency to rectify their concerns in the House-passed Build Back Better Act and pass legislation true to President Biden’s Build Back Better framework. This framework provides additional funds to address the water crisis facing communities nationwide – lead service line replacement, low-income rate assistance and climate-resilient infrastructure.

Action is vital: Two million people in our country do not have access to safe, clean, affordable drinking water. Forty-four percent of waterways in the U.S. are too polluted for fishing and swimming. Climate change is threatening lives and the economy with the full range of water impacts, from severe flooding to record-breaking drought and toxic algae outbreaks. Black, Latino, Indigenous and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by river and climate threats.

“At this moment in our nation’s history, investment in rivers couldn’t be more critical. By prioritizing rivers and clean water, Congress is addressing urgent needs in our communities, from public health and safety to environmental justice and the economy,” said Tom Kiernan, President and CEO of American Rivers.

“Drought, floods and soaring temperatures are underscoring the importance of healthy rivers, reliable infrastructure, and safe, affordable water supplies to our nation’s future. We have much more work to do to advance equitable clean water solutions, tackle urgent river restoration needs, and address the climate crisis, but this bill is an important step forward.”

Highlights of the infrastructure bill include:

Clean water

The bill contains a total of $55 billion for water infrastructure. $28.8 billion will go toward the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds. Of that $55 billion, $510 million will go to small and disadvantaged communities; $1.4 billion for sewer overflow and stormwater reuse grants; and, $250 million for the Indian Reservation drinking water program. The bill will also fund studies on advanced clean water technologies and stormwater infrastructure technology.

River restoration

The bill contains $4.5 billion for watershed restoration. This includes $2.4 billion to support the removal, rehabilitation and retrofit of dams ($800 million for dam removal, $800 million for dam safety and $753 million for hydropower facilities for dam safety improvements, environmental improvements, and grid resilience) 

Equitable, nature-based flood management

The bill contains critical funding for flood management, including key programs that can support nature-based flood management projects including $3.5 billion for FEMA’s Flood Mitigation Assistance program, $1 billion for FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, and $300 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program at the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The bill also includes $2.5 billion for inland flood risk management at the Army Corps, with a focus on multi-purpose projects and projects that will directly benefit economically disadvantaged and minority communities. 

In addition, the bill contains important funding for key river basins. In the Colorado River Basin, funding will help implement large water reuse and recycling projects, increase resilience to climate change, and prioritize natural infrastructure solutions. In Washington’s Yakima River Basin, the bill’s funding will support the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, advancing water supply reliability and river restoration.

American Rivers called on Congress to take additional urgent steps to protect clean water and rivers nationwide:

  • Include funding for dam removal and dam safety programs in the Reconciliation funding process to address the nation’s aging and obsolete dam infrastructure. 
  • Enact legislation to save Northwest salmon from extinction by restoring the lower Snake River and investing in the region’s energy, transportation and agriculture sectors
  • Pass the bipartisan 21st Century Dams Act, which dedicates $25.8 billion for the removal, rehabilitation and retrofit of dams, including $7.5 billion to support removal of 1,000 dams to restore 10,000 miles of rivers.
  • Pass bills that would designate more than 6,700 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers in New Mexico, Washington, Montana and Oregon.