Press Release

Gillibrand Announces Critical Provisions For NYS Included In The Water Resources Development Act

Jan 19, 2023

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced essential provisions for New York’s water resources are included in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA 2022), which passed in December 2022. This legislation will enable the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) to complete several risk management studies on flooding and start new projects that are key to New York’s water restoration, waterway resiliency, and emergency flood protection. Gillibrand also successfully pushed for provisions to prevent invasive species from accessing New York’s waterways, including the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. These species pose a serious threat to the natural ecosystems, economy, and public health of the Rochester, Buffalo, the Finger Lakes, and North Country regions. WRDA has recently been passed every two years and authorizes water resource studies and projects and sets policies for navigation, flood control, hydropower, recreation, water supply, and emergency management for the Army Corps.

“These important WRDA provisions will help improve New York’s shoreline resiliency and flood protection and will prevent coastal erosion along the Great Lakes and beyond,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This past year, New York has experienced record-breaking storms and extreme weather; that’s why I fought for these key provisions to better protect our communities and shorelines from risks of high water levels, storm surge, and extreme weather.”

Lake Champlain Watershed Environmental Assistance Program This provision increases the authorized amount for the Lake Champlain Watershed Environmental Assistance Program to $100 million, up from the currently authorized amount of $32 million. The Lake Champlain Watershed Environmental Assistance Program is a regional environmental assistance program for the Lake Champlain Watershed which is a nationally significant watershed extending from New York State through Vermont and into Quebec, Canada.
Lake Champlain Canal BarrierThe Champlain Canal, which connects Lake Champlain to the Hudson River and Great Lakes watersheds, remains an open pathway for transporting aquatic invasive species to Lake Champlain. Many species – including the Asian clam, spiny water flea, hydrilla, round goby, and quagga mussel – have already or could potentially enter Lake Champlain through the Champlain Canal. This provision authorizes the Army Corps to construct, maintain, and operate a dispersal barrier at federal expense if the study results in the Corps recommending a barrier be installed.
Mohawk River Basin Flood Risk Management StudyThis provision authorizes the Army Corps to study the Mohawk River Basin and make recommendations for improvements to the water resources of the basin, including flood risk management, navigation, environmental restoration, and other cultural resources.
South Shore of Long Island Coastal Resiliency StudyThis provision authorizes the Army Corps the authority to study the South Shore of Long Island as a whole system, including inlets that are federal channels for coastal resiliency efforts.
Blind Brook Flood Risk Management StudyThis provision authorizes the Army Corps to study Blind Brook flooding in the City of Rye. Blind Brook collects water and silt from the runways of Westchester Airport in White Plains, highly-developed areas of Harrison and Rye Brook, and Interstates 287 and 95. In 2019, with the help of Senator Gillibrand’s office, the City of Rye initiated a review of Blind Brook that would determine whether the Army Corps needed to pursue flood control projects in the watershed.
New York Harbor Collection and Removal of DriftThis provision reauthorizes a previous authority – New York Harbor Collection and Removal of Drift at the source. This language reauthorizes the original authority and requires the Corps to prepare an updated report to Congress on the feasibility and cost of performing this authorization.                                           
Nationwide Low-Head Dams InventoryThis section amends the National Dam Safety Program Act to require the Army Corps to develop, and make publicly available, an inventory of all low-head dams in the United States and to periodically update the inventory in consultation with relevant federal and state agencies. New York has one of the highest numbers of low-head dams in the country. While the current estimate is 200 to 300 across the state, it is likely that there are more since there has not been a reported inventory since 2014.
Brandon Road Lock and Dam ProjectThis provision increases the federal cost share for the Brandon Road Lock and Dam Project from 80% to 90% for the remaining design, construction, operation, and maintenance costs. The Brandon Road Lock and Dam is a key piece of infrastructure with profound regional and national significance. This project is intended to prevent invasive carp from migrating up the Mississippi River and colonizing in the Great Lakes, which could devastate the ecosystem that supports fisheries for tribal, commercial, and recreational interests. The invasive carp could also reduce property value and be detrimental to local and regional economies that rely on recreational tourism.
Cost Increase Authorization for South Shore of Staten Island Coastal Storm Risk Management ProjectThis provision increases the federal portion for costs that exceed the estimated project costs from 65% to 90%.
Hudson-Raritan Estuary Feasibility Study: Ecosystem Restoration ProjectsThis provision authorizes the Army Corps to carry out additional feasibility studies pursuant to the recommendations of the Hudson Estuary Ecosystem restoration investigation.
Forecast-Informed Reservoir OperationsThis provision authorizes the Army Corps to carry out a research study pilot program at one or more dams in the eastern United States to assess the viability of the FIRO (Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations) program, which monitors reservoirs for drought conditions in the western United States, being expanded to the eastern United States.
Interior Drainage (Queens)This provision authorizes $119,200,000 for water and wastewater infrastructure, including storm water management in Queens.
Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency: Expedite Completion of the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency StudyThis provision requires the Army Corps to expedite the completion of Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study.
Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency: Advance Measures AssistanceThis provision requires the Army Corps to adhere to any request from the governor of a Great Lakes state (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin) for preventative measures to reduce the risk of damage from rising water levels.
Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency: Forecasting ModelsThis provision authorizes $10,000,000 for the Army Corps to maintain a model suite to forecast water levels and account for water level variability, the impacts of extreme weather events, and other natural disasters in the Great Lakes.
Policy changes for Coastal Storm Risk Management Studies and Ecosystem Restoration InvestigationsThis provision directs the Army Corps to formulate project study alternatives that reduce comprehensive flood risk or hurricane and storm damage risk when conducting feasibility studies.
New York and New Jersey Harbor Deepening Channel ImprovementsThis provision authorizes the Army Corps to dredge the harbor floor from 50 ft. to 55 ft., as well as widen federal channels for shipping lanes.  
Temporary Relocation AssistanceThis provision directs the Army Corps to establish a pilot program to evaluate the effect of providing temporary relocation assistance when an owner elevates their home to prevent damage from flooding. This request was made in response to the Army Corps’ call to raise 14,000 homes on Long Island.
Port of Ogdensburg DeepeningThis provision modifies the Port of Ogdensburg feasibility study to include deepening the lower east channel and lower basin.