Friday, April 19, 2024

Senator Richard Burr could hold up federal beach renourishment funding

WRDA is a bipartisan bill that authorizes federal funding for coastal projects across the country.

Projects like beach renourishment could be held up if Senator Bill Burr refuses to allow the WRDA bill to pass in Senate (Port City Daily/File)
Projects like beach renourishment could be held up if Senator Burr refuses to allow the Water Resources Development Act to pass in Senate. (Port City Daily/File)

SOUTHEAST NORTH CAROLINA — According to the American Share and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA), United States Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina is single-handedly holding up the renewal of the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA), a bipartisan bill that recently passed in the House of Representatives.

The bill directs federal funding to a range of projects, from beach renourishment to constructing new dams.

ASBPA Executive Director Derek Brockbank has reached out to local coastal communities that are members of his organization, asking leaders to contact Burr and request he pass the act.

“This year’s Senate version of WRDA is a non-controversial, strongly bi-partisan bill, that has a lot of good provisions for Coastal Communities. It will reorganize United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) budgeting process so that USACE has to have 5 year budgeting plans, it authorizes a study to examine USACE’s benefit-cost ratio process; it extends the window for expiring projects (eg. Carolina Beach) to be reauthorized, and more,” Brockbank said in an email to Carolina Beach Town Council.

According to Brockbank, Burr is threatening to use a procedural measure to hold up the bill in the Senate. How long he could potentially stall the act is another question, but since Senate is going to recess at the end of this week, the delay could push the approval of the act to the “back of the line,” Brockbank said.

A matter of principle, not content

Video: North Carolina Senator Richard Burr has promised to push to add permanent authorization to the Land and Water Conservation Fund to every piece of legislation that comes through the United States Senate.

The reasoning for Burr’s holdup is not because he is against the contents of WRDA, but because of another, unrelated fund he wants passed.

“Senator Burr is putting a ‘hold’ on the bill unless it includes permanent authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is set to expire in September. While ASBPA does not have a position on LWCF, in previous employment I advocated for LWCF – which provides federal funding for local parks, open space, public lands and water conservation – so I am hugely sympathetic and support what Sen. Burr is trying to do. But the amendment he wants isn’t germane (ie. it’s not specifically related to WRDA), and doesn’t have enough Republican support to pass, and demanding it now is threatening to prevent WRDA from coming up for a vote next week,” Brockbank said.

Last week Burr spoke before Senate asking for the approval of the re-authorization of the LWCF which expires on Sep. 30, 2018.

“As long as the Senate goes into session, if we intend to move legislation, you will have an opportunity to vote on Land and Water Fund Conservation reauthorization. When this floor opens, I will come down here. And I will not encumber the appropriations chairman in every case; I’ll probably pull every chairman into this,” Burr said to Senate.

A spokesperson for Burr, Caitlin Carroll, confirmed that the senator plans to attach the LWFC to every piece of legislation he can.

What next?

If the WRDA is not passed before Senate heads to recess at the end of the week Brockbank said it could have an impact on beach towns and other projects waiting to receive approval and funding from the federal government.

Brockbank encouraged town officials and residents to call Burr and ask him to pass the WRDA.

“Call Burr’s DC office: 202-224-3154; ask to speak to his staffer on coastal infrastructure issues, and tell her who you are and who you represent and say ‘WRDA is good for the coast; we need to pass WRDA this summer, do not hold it up!'” he said.

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