Big omnibus bill includes long-sought St. Croix River flooding project

Sprawling omnibus legislation includes approved for expedited completion.




3 minute read

U.S. Capitol (Andrew Van Huss|Wikipedia)

The broad legislation recently signed into law to provide coronavirus relief, fund the government, and support the ongoing fight against coronavirus, includes $600 relief checks for Americans, tax exemptions for business lunches — and authorization for a flood control project on the lower St. Croix River.

The bills were signed by President Trump on Sunday after passing Congress several days earlier.

The local project for levees and other riverfront infrastructure in the St. Croix Valley was included in the 5,600-page omnibus legislation as part of another bill — the Water Resources Development Act of 2020. That bill includes hundreds of projects led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on rivers, coasts, harbors, and lakes, around the country.

Many of the projects will provide infrastructure improvements important for communities and commerce, while also creating many private sector jobs in construction and other fields.

“[The Water Resources Development Act] will help strengthen the nation’s global competitiveness, grow the economy, protect our communities, and create jobs. In particular, the vital flood control and risk reduction improvements in this bill will help safeguard communities throughout North Missouri and around the country,” Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) said.

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) included major public works projects, from bridges to levees to ecosystem restoration. The bill was passed by the House in late July and the Senate earlier this month. It received votes from across the political spectrum, as well as support from a broad array of advocates.

Supporting organizations included the National Parks Conservation Association, U.S. Chamber of Congress, United Steelworkers, the Nature Conservancy, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and many more.

“The bipartisan legislation approved today is critical to communities across all 50 states, and includes key provisions to invest in our ports, harbors and inland waterways; build more resilient communities; and ensure that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers carries out projects in an economically and environmentally responsible manner,” Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said at the time.

Because this is a developing story, details of the lower St. Croix project have not yet been confirmed. The project is part of a section that calls the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to “expedite completion” of several feasibility reports for proposals across the United States.

It empowers the Secretary of the Army to determine if projects are justified by their reports, and if so, “proceed directly” to planning, engineering, and design.

In some convoluted processes only Congress could devise, the coronavirus bill incorporates the Water Resources Development Act, which incorporates a 2002 resolution to incorporate a St. Croix River proposal from the Corps of Engineers published years before.

“Resolved by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the United States House of Representatives, That the Secretary of the Army is requested to review the report of the Chief of Engineers on the St. Croix River, Wisconsin and Minnesota, published as House Document 462, 71st Congress, 2nd Session, and other pertinent reports to determine whether modifications to the recommendations contained therein are advisable at the present time in the interest of flood damage reduction, environmental restoration and protection, water quality and related purposes to include developing a comprehensive coordinated watershed management plan for the development, conservation, and utilization of water and related land resources in the St. Croix River Basin and its tributaries.”

St. Croix 360 will report additional information as it becomes available.

Thank you to Brian Bakst of MPR News for the tip.

Dec. 31, 2020: Post updated to reflect signing into law.