WASHINGTON, D. C. — Last Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed legislation that will improve the nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, including two projects in southern Maine.

The Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act with overwhelming bipartisan support; the vote was 95-3. The legislation, with a price tag of $10.6 billion, authorizes 29 Army Corps of Engineers projects including Portsmouth Harbor and the Piscataqua River Navigation Project, and reauthorizes the Cape Arundel Disposal Site off southern Maine’s coast, according to a press release from U.S. Sen. Angus King, I–Maine.

“Maine’s waters are a crucial resource for thousands of people across the state who rely on them for a livelihood, and that’s why ensuring our state’s water-related infrastructure is strong and safe is so critical,” said King, who voted for the legislation.

“This legislation will help protect the public’s health through improved water and wastewater management, and strengthen our state’s commercial maritime economy by preserving access to critical funding for Maine’s small harbors,” King said. “And by authorizing important Army Corps projects like the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River Navigation Project and the use of the Cape Arundel Disposal Site, the bill will help Maine continue to manage its water resources so that future generations can continue to take advantage of one of our most vital resources.”

According to a report on the bill by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, leaders of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, “The bill provides critical investment in the country’s aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, assists poor and disadvantaged communities in meeting public health standards under the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, and promotes innovative technologies to address drought and other critical water resource needs.”

It also provides $220 million in loans and grants to help Flint, Michigan, repair its lead-tainted drinking water system.

If the bill becomes law, the turning basin of Portsmouth Harbor would be significantly expanded so that larger ships can navigate the area more safely. Portsmouth Harbor stretches across New Castle, Portsmouth and Newington in New Hampshire and the Maine communities of Kittery and Eliot.

The harbor, about 50 miles northeast of Boston, is the sole deep draft harbor in New Hampshire. It handles about 3.4 million tons of shipping a year, and is used by submarines from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery as well as a large lobstering fleet, charter fishing vessels, commercial fishermen and others.

The Cape Arundel Disposal Site, located just under 3 miles southeast of Cape Arundel, is a temporary site for the disposal of dredged material. Reauthorization of the site, which was selected by the Army Corps in 1985, would extend the time it’s in use.

Before the bill can become law, the U.S. House of Representatives must pass its version of the act. If it’s the same as the Senate version, it will go to the president for his signature.

If there are differences between the House and Senate versions, a conference committee will be formed to come up with a compromise, then both chambers must pass the bill again before it can head to the president.— Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324, or [email protected]

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