December 22, 2020
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, praised the inclusion of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 in the year-end appropriations bill and announced provisions in the legislation that will benefit Oklahoma. Inhofe’s provisions focus on the future of Oklahoma, including the next step in ensuring the Tulsa-West Tulsa Levees project becomes a reality.
“I am incredibly pleased we have passed the fourth consecutive two-year water resources bill. This critical legislation contains a number of provisions that will benefit people across Oklahoma, including ensuring the Tulsa-West Tulsa Levees project becomes a reality. Not only that, this bill provides certainty in water storage pricing for Enid, prioritizes investment in the MKARNS and ensures Oklahoma will not have to wait almost a year after a disastrous flood for waterborne commerce to recover.”
The following provisions in America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 will directly benefit the state of Oklahoma:
Tulsa-West Tulsa Project Authorization and Financing
This provision is the next step in ensuring the Tulsa-West Tulsa Levees project becomes a reality if funded through the regular appropriations process. On April 23, Inhofe announced that Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite signed the Chief’s Report for the Tulsa-West Tulsa Levees project. This Chief’s Report is the formal recommendation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the improvements necessary so the Tulsa Levees can continue to minimize the risk to life and property in communities they protect from flooding. On average, once funded, it takes three years to complete a feasibility study and Chief’s Report. Because of Inhofe’s persistence, the Chief’s Report for this project was completed in just 19 months, making it eligible for authorization this year. Furthermore, this bill formalizes the recommendation in the Chief’s Report that the non-federal cost share for this project be financed over a 30 year period.
Limitation on Water Storage Costs
In 2016, Bartlesville learned purchasing additional water supply from Hulah and Copan lakes could cost over $100 million over 10 years based on the current pricing structure for purchasing water from the U.S. Army Corps lakes. Sen. Inhofe secured a 2018 provision that made it affordable for municipalities, like Bartlesville, to contract with the Corps for long-term water supply. After this provision passed, the City of Enid found themselves subjected to similar antiquated Corps regulations governing the cost of accessing water storage at Kaw Lake. This bill includes a new provision that would, once again, make it affordable for municipalities, like Enid, to contract with the Corps for water supply.
Inland Waterway Trust Fund Cost Share
This provision adjusts the cost share for the construction of navigation projects, like deepening the MKARNS, that is contributed from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which allows additional federal investment in total on inland waterway navigation infrastructure projects in states like Oklahoma. It establishes a cost share of 65 percent appropriations to 35 percent inland waterways trust fund for construction of inland navigation projects. This additional federal investment will allow the faster completion of existing projects, and ensure the Corps can move more quickly to deepening the MKARNS.
Reimbursement for Water Resource Projects
The MKARNS has yet to fully recover from the major disasters Oklahoma experienced last year. This provision will allow non-federal entities to be reimbursed for providing materials and services to repair, restore, replace or maintain water resources projects. It will further allow the Corps to use emergency authorities to accept needed materials, services and funds during a flood event to restore an authorized project. This bill will ensure that following a future flood disaster, we can get the commerce dependent on our inland waterways moving again as quickly as possible.
A number of stakeholders voiced support for America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020:
“We are grateful for Senator Inhofe’s dedicated leadership and the support of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation in bringing forward critical issues in WRDA 2020 to improve the safety and resilience of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System in light of last spring’s catastrophic floods,” said Tim Gatz, Secretary of Transportation for Oklahoma and Executive Director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. “The new provisions will help improve response times and access to resources for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation when acting in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during such disasters where every minute counts. The navigation system is extremely important to commerce, jobs and the economy in Oklahoma and represents a valuable resource as a component of the nation’s transportation future. We greatly appreciate Senator Inhofe’s continued vision and his tireless championing of transportation infrastructure investments of all types.”
“I am continually impressed by Senator Inhofe’s dedication and service to Oklahomans and our priorities,” said Todd Kilpatrick, Commissioner for Levee District 12. “After ensuring the signing of the Tulsa-West Tulsa Levees Chief's Report, Senator Inhofe still continues to see this project through as quickly as possible. The provisions he secured today means we are one step closer to making sure Tulsans will be protected from floods like those we endured last year for years to come.”
“We greatly appreciate Senator Inhofe’s leadership concerning the Kaw Lake water-storage rate issue,” said Mike Cooper, Chairman of the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission. “As always, the Senator’s attention to our nation’s infrastructure while at the same time making sure our nation’s military readiness is second to none, is truly remarkable. The Kaw Lake project not only provides a long term water solution for Enid, Okla., and the communities they provide water to, it also resolves a water sustainability problem for one our nation’s leading pilot training bases: Vance AFB.”
“Senator Inhofe’s tireless advocacy for America’s waterway transportation system is evident in the Senate EPW’s 2020 WRDA Bill,” said Scott Robinson, Port Director of the Port of Muskogee. “Two of the provisions are particularly welcome to Oklahoma stakeholders. Changes to the federal cost share formula will provide a stronger foundation for infrastructure project development, moving authorized projects, like Three Rivers and the 12’ Channel Deepening Projects to construction at a much faster pace; thereby ensuring the intended benefits to the nation, sooner. Authorizing reimbursement to non-federal stakeholders whose contributions advance the pace of waterway project restoration will ensure resiliency of our waterways transportation system. Had reimbursement been possible in the aftermath of the unprecedented floods that occurred on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System in May of 2019, federal and non-federal dredging activities could have occurred in Oklahoma and Arkansas simultaneously, restoring navigation to Oklahoma shippers sooner. Tens of millions of dollars of additional transportation costs to our waterways industries could have been avoided and hundreds of jobs could have been saved in the process.”