Senate Passes Major Bipartisan Bill to Invest in the Nation's Water Infrastructure

Washington, D.C.—With U.S. Senator Susan Collins’ support, the Senate passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, a major bipartisan water infrastructure bill that authorizes dozens of crucial port and harbor projects across our country, including the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Project, as well as key safe drinking water investments. The legislation will now go to the President's desk for his signature. 

“This bipartisan water infrastructure bill will help create good jobs, ensure our nation’s ports and waterways remain competitive, and provide urgent aid for communities across our country that are suffering from excess lead levels in their drinking water systems,” said Senator Collins. 

“More than 99 percent of our country’s trade passes through our nation’s ports and harbors, which serve as crucial economic engines for communities in Maine and across our country,” Senator Collins continued. “This legislation green lights a much-needed navigation project for the Portsmouth Harbor and the Piscataqua River, an important victory for the safe and efficient flow of goods into our state. At present, the Portsmouth Harbor handles nearly 3.5 million tons of shipping each year and is also used by submarines from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.  The current turning basin and waterway are far too narrow for such a large volume of commerce and through traffic. This authorization will allow for the construction of a wider turning basin that will better meet the needs of the region.

The final bill authorizes $10.3 billion for 31 new Army Corps projects and modifies eight existing projects. 

It includes several provisions of importance to Maine, including:

  • Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Improvement Project. The WIIN Act authorizes a key improvement project in Maine that will enable vessels to safely navigate this area. At present the Portsmouth Harbor handles nearly 3.5 million tons of shipping each year yet the turning basin and waterway are far too narrow for such a large volume of commerce. This project would increase both safety and efficiency by constructing a wider turning basin that will serve the terminals on the upper section of the Piscataqua River, as well as by widening the waterway at several bends and bridges.
  • Emerging Harbors. The WIIN Act makes permanent the 10 percent Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund set-aside for emerging harbors.  The bill also requires that at least 10 percent of priority funds be used for the operations and maintenance needs of emerging harbors.  “Emerging harbors” include small harbor projects around the country like York, Biddeford, Wells, Saco, Kennebunkport, Beals Harbor, and Pig Island Gut.
  • Recognizes the Beneficial Use of Dredged Material.  The WIIN Act clarifies that dredged material disposal projects do not require ongoing maintenance and can be a single application of sediment.  The Corps' current interpretation is that projects need to be maintained forever, which is more costly and burdensome and not always necessary. This provision will provide flexibility for shorter-term projects and is important to Wells, Kittery, and Cape Elizabeth.