Washington, DC – Today, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 (H.R. 7575).
“I am pleased that the Committee included my dam safety bill in the 2020 WRDA bill,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “My bill will help to address dam safety hazards nation-wide, including at the Santa Felicia Dam in Ventura County. If the dam were to fail, it would cause significant destruction throughout Ventura County, so we must ensure the dam is safe from all hazards, including earthquakes.
“I am also pleased that the Committee included language that I helped to spearhead to ensure that the Port of Hueneme, and other donor ports, receive a fair share of resources from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF). The Port of Hueneme contributes far more to the HMTF than it receives back in resources. This bill will help provide equity and ensure the Port of Hueneme has resources to address infrastructure needs at the port, which is a key economic driver in our region.”
High Hazard Dams
The FEMA High Hazard Dams program was created several years ago to address dam safety issues. When the program was originally created, Congress included language prohibiting dams with hydroelectric generation capacity from eligibility. The intent at the time was to ensure the federal dollars went towards publicly-owned dams, and not for-profit hydropower facilities. However, there are a number of dams nation-wide with small hydroelectric power features, which were unintentionally excluded from eligibility, including the Santa Felicia Dam in Ventura County. Last year, Brownley introduced legislation, H.R. 5504, to ensure that dams with small hydroelectric generation capacity, 1.5 megawatts or less, are eligible for the FEMA High Hazard Dams grant program.
Dam safety is a critically important issue across our country. The failure of dams can have catastrophic and deadly consequences for communities. The 1928 catastrophic collapse of the St. Francis Dam killed at least 431 people in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Today, there are more than 80,000 dams in the United States, many of which would pose a “high” or “significant” hazard to life and property if a failure were to occur, including the Santa Felicia Dam.
“United Water Conservation District (UWCD) greatly appreciates the ongoing support and tireless efforts of Congresswoman Brownley in providing for the public’s safety here in Ventura County,” said UWCD General Manager Mauricio E. Guardado, Jr. “By including small hydroelectric generation capacity, 1.5 megawatts or less, are eligible for the FEMA High Hazard Dams grant program language in the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) of 2020, Congresswoman Brownley is opening the door to the federal funding necessary to complete the essential Santa Felicia Dam Safety Improvement project, which will guard against potential catastrophic dam failure without burdening the rate payers to fund these necessary safety upgrades.”
Donor Port Equity
The 2020 WRDA bill also includes language, which Brownley helped to spearhead, to ensure that donor ports – those ports that contribute more to the HMTF than they receive back in resources – receive a fair share of resources. Specifically, the bill includes language that allocates 10% of HMTF expenditures to donor ports. In 2016, Brownley secured passage of legislation that formally designated the Port of Hueneme and the Port of San Diego as a donor ports. Since then, the Port has received resources on an annual basis that have been set aside for donor ports. Other California donor ports include the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach.
“Congresswoman Brownley has been a strong supporter of the Port of Hueneme and supporting our nation’s seaports,” said Kristin Decas, CEO & Port Director of the Port of Hueneme. “Today’s passage of WRDA 2020 in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is one step closer toward greater equity for our Port and the other eight donor ports around the nation.”