Senate Committee Approves McConnell Provisions to Strengthen Kentucky’s Water Infrastructure

May 7, 2020

Kentucky Lock in Grand Rivers, Kentucky is one of the prioritized projects, if the provisions pass the full Senate as proposed.
Credit USACE PHOTO BY LEE ROBERTS

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday approved several priorities which could benefit waterways in Kentucky as part of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 (AWIA 2020), if approved by the full Senate.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced in a press release he helped secure the funding for the waterways projects, many of which directly impact the western Kentucky region. 

 

“Kentucky workers and families at the heart of our nation’s inland waterways system stand to greatly benefit from the passage of the Senate’s water infrastructure legislation,” McConnell said in a statement. “Working with my Senate colleagues, I was proud to advance Kentucky’s priorities in this bill, supporting good jobs, expanding access to safe drinking water and protecting communities from dangerous flooding across our Commonwealth. I’m grateful my colleagues recognized the need to invest in Kentucky’s future, and I look forward to the full Senate’s consideration of vital legislation.”

 

According to the release issued by his office, McConnell supported the following provisions:

 

·         Kentucky Lock: A provision requiring the Secretary of the Army to expedite the completion of its report justifying a new authorization level of over $1.1 billion for the Kentucky Lock project on Kentucky Lake. McConnell has secured hundreds of millions of dollars to complete the infrastructure project in western Kentucky, according to the release, which supports Kentucky’s 20,000 maritime workers and their families.

 

·       Cost-Share Change for Major Inland Waterways Projects: By changing the cost-sharing formula for the construction and rehabilitation of major inland waterways projects from 50/50 to 65/35, the provision will inject more federal dollars into USACE construction projects, like Kentucky Lock. This adjustment could help accelerate the Kentucky Lock project by 1-3 years.

“I would like to thank Senator McConnell, once again, for his indispensable leadership for our nation’s inland waterways system, especially in the Senate’s 2020 WRDA bill,” said Matt Ricketts, President and CEO of Crounse Corporation in Paducah, Kentucky, in a statement. “Senator McConnell championed our top priorities, including a provision altering the cost-share requirement for major inland waterways projects, as well as continuing his critical support of the Kentucky Lock project. If enacted, this legislation will ensure that projects such as Kentucky Lock are completed in an efficient and timely manner, accelerating the benefits of such projects to communities in our state and across the nation.”

 

·         Asian Carp Prevention and Control Pilot Program: The legislation authorizes $35 million for innovative projects and technologies that bolster the management, prevention, and eradication of Asian Carp.  Moreover, the provision ensures that at least five of these projects are undertaken in reservoirs like Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. In the last appropriations bill, McConnell secured $25 million for Asian Carp efforts, and he also worked with the Trump administration to deploy the cutting-edge Unified Method in the commonwealth to help rid Kentucky waters of Asian Carp.

 

“Senator Mitch McConnell proved once again the removal of Asian Carp from our western Kentucky waters remains a top priority,” said Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White in a statement. “Senator McConnell not only talks about the importance of removing carp, but he also leads the federal effort to make it happen. I appreciate all he is doing to help Western Kentucky and many other states win the War On Carp.”

·         New Appalachian Environmental Infrastructure Program: The bill authorizes $120 million for a new environmental infrastructure program within Appalachia. Senator McConnell worked with Congressman Hal Rogers to ensure funding would be used by USACE to provide environmental assistance for design and construction for water-related infrastructure and development projects in the Appalachian region, including Kentucky.

 

·         Extinguish Flowage Easements at Rough River Lake: The measure requires the USACE, at the request of a Kentucky landowner, to forfeit any rights the government has to certain residential properties at Rough River Lake, and authorizes $10 million in funding for necessary work to extinguish these rights. This provision builds on Senators McConnell and Rand Paul’s legislation from 2018, which prohibited USACE from collecting administrative fees from property owners to fund USACE’s past land surveying mistakes, according to the release. The McConnell provision saved impacted Rough River Lake homeowners up to $4,000 per household.

 

·         Louisville Flood Control Project Authorization. This provision requires the Secretary of the Army to expedite the release of a USACE report, which could make necessary repairs associated with Louisville’s flood control system eligible for federal funding. McConnell led to enactment the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which funded $3 million USACE feasibility study. The study will propose solutions to fix Louisville’s aging flood control system and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2020. 

 

·         Flood Control Pump Stations: McConnell secured a provision authorizing $75 million for the rehabilitation of flood control pump stations. Flood control pump stations in Western Kentucky will be eligible to receive a portion of these funds.