Sen. Kelly-Crafted Bill to Strengthen Arizona’s Water Future Will Become Law

The Kelly-shaped bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2022 cuts red tape and secures more federal funds for key Arizona water infrastructure projects

Today, the United States Senate passed the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA), crafted by Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023. Through his leadership role on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Kelly secured provisions that cut bureaucratic red tape, expedite the completion of a key water restoration project championed by the late Senator John McCain, boost funds for key water infrastructure projects in communities across Arizona, clean up old uranium mines on tribal land, and allow the Army Corps to construct drought mitigation and groundwater management projects in the state. 

“It’s no secret that Arizona and the American West are facing a historic drought. After working with my colleagues across the aisle and listening to the concerns of leaders across Arizona, we secured critical priorities in this bipartisan legislation that will cut red tape, deliver the resources needed to make our communities more resilient to extreme weather, and protect our state’s water future,” said Senator Kelly who crafted the Water Resources Development Act of 2022. 

“Navajo County is grateful for the strong partnership with Senator Kelly’s office and the work he has done to move the Winslow Levee Project forward. Not only has Senator Kelly been instrumental in securing federal funding for the project, but the additional language in the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act will remove barriers that would have slowed a project that has already spent 20 years in the making. Senator Kelly has shown his ongoing dedication to rural Arizona and we look forward to our continued partnership for another six years,” said Chairwoman Dawnafe Whitesinger. 

“This legislation will propel crucial restoration and development in communities across the country,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. “In Phoenix, habitat restoration along the Rio Salado will sustain fish and wildlife populations and support a healthier landscape that is more resilient to wildfire. Improved access to the river brings us closer to the vision of Rio Reimagined, connecting communities along the river corridor to this unique riparian ecosystem and to each other. The bill is also a memorable testament to the hard work that our late Senator John McCain and Congressman Ed Pastor invested to create the foundation for Rio Reimagined that we now build upon. Thank you, Senator Kelly and the Arizona Congressional delegation, and the Army Corps of Engineers for supporting this transformational project.” 

“We appreciate Senator Kelly’s leadership in securing authorization to fund water infrastructure and flood control projects in Pinal County, including the Lower Santa Cruz River watershed, as part of the 2022 Water Resources Development Act. It is essential that we continue to develop the infrastructure necessary to protect our communities and economy, and these provisions will help us do that,” said Pinal County Supervisor Stephen Q. Miller.

“Tempe is grateful for Senator Kelly’s support of the WRDA designation for our Kyrene Water Reclamation facility,” said Tempe Mayor Corey Woods. “The designation will allow us to reopen a facility that will augment Tempe’s water supply and add to our state’s resiliency against the effects of climate change.”

“We are extremely grateful for Senator Kelly’s leadership in protecting and promoting the Rio de Flag flood control project. His inclusion of language that would expedite the completion of the Rio de Flag project will finally – after more than 20 years of fighting – protect more than half of our residents from catastrophic floods. We applaud his continued efforts for the City of Flagstaff,” said Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy. 

“We are incredibly grateful that Senator Kelly has secured language in WRDA 2022 that will expedite the completion of the Rose and Palm Garden Washes flood control project. Since he has visited Douglas on multiple occasions and understands the challenges we face in terms of the new commercial port, it is imperative that we protect our historic downtown business and residential district from potential flooding. Quickly completing this project will ensure that we are protecting the new port and ensure that our City will continue to thrive and grow. We thank Senator Kelly for leading and passing this bipartisan bill that is so important to Douglas and, frankly, all of Arizona,” said Douglas Mayor Donald Huish. 

“Senator Kelly has supported Globe’s initiatives from the moment he was elected. His language in WRDA 2022 that will speed the completion of the McCormick Wash flood control project is a result of his consistent effort to work across the aisle on commonsense initiatives that will benefit communities like ours. We are grateful for the continued support and leadership of Senator Kelly,” said Globe Mayor Al Gameros.

“We are very thankful to Senator Kelly for his unyielding determination and bi-partisan, bi-cameral efforts to help secure the final $65 million for the Winslow Levee Project. This project has been a long-term goal for our City in order to help protect the citizens and businesses in Winslow from another devastating flood event. The inclusion of language to expedite the completion of this project is imperative, and we wholeheartedly appreciate Senator Kelly’s work to help rural communities like ours. We look forward to the Levee Project, and what this means for the thriving future of Winslow, Arizona,” said Winslow Mayor Roberta “Birdie” Cano. 

“As a resident of Pima County, Senator Kelly uniquely understands the challenges we face in southern Arizona. His commitment to fund the El Corazon Environmental Restoration Project and the fact that he was able to work to include language in WRDA 2022 that will result in its expedited completion is a tribute to his dedication and commitment to our County’s needs. We are grateful for his continued leadership and support for Pima County,” said Pima County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bronson. 

“Partnership with the federal government makes sense to protect private homes and businesses but also Luke Air Force Base,” said Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Clint Hickman, District 4. “We are putting more than $100 million into McMicken Dam to take care of structural needs. Another major project for our Flood Control District is Cave Buttes Dam which protects more than a million people. Working together we can protect people and property well into the future.”

“Our country’s water future will rely heavily on finding new opportunities to expand and implement Managed Aquifer Recharge programs which is why this study is so vital,” said National Ground Water Association CEO Terry. S Morse, CAE, CIC. “Senator Kelly has been one of the strongest advocates in fighting for this provision and again has proven to be one of groundwaters greatest champions in Congress.”

“Across Arizona, drought and wildfire are impacting the critical infrastructure for our municipal and agricultural water supply, flood protection, and outdoor recreation opportunities,” said Alex Funk, senior counsel and director of water resources for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We are grateful for Senator Kelly’s willingness to forge bipartisan solutions to address drought and wildfire conditions in the West by securing critical provisions in the Water Resources Development Act that direct the Corps to take on action by directing resources to increase the pace and scale investments both water conservation and in natural and built infrastructure solutions that can reduce our vulnerability to natural disasters while enhancing the health of fish and wildlife habitat—it is a proactive step to improve the overall resilience of Western watersheds. 

Since taking office, Kelly has continued to break through partisan gridlock to pass historic legislation that protects Arizona’s precious water resources and secures its water future. See a full breakdown of the provisions Kelly secured below: 

  • Honoring John McCain’s Legacy: The Rio Reimagined initiative is a legacy project of the late Senator John McCain. To honor and build on that work, Kelly secured the expedited completion and construction of the critical Tres Rios Environmental Restoration project, part of the Rio Reimagined initiative. The project involves the rehabilitation of nearly 700 acres in and around the Salt River, restoring a vital wetland and riparian habitat. The City of Phoenix is currently working with the Army Corps to develop a new workplan for the next phase of the project. 
  • Cutting Red Tape to Complete Stalled Arizona Water Projects: Through his role on the EPW committee, Kelly secured a two-year waiver to greenlight the completion of the stalled Rio de Flag project in Flagstaff and the Tres Rios project in Phoenix which hit federally imposed cost-increase thresholds that prevent them from completing the work. 
  • Funding for Western Water Program: Kelly secured $200 million within the Army Corps’ Rural Western Water program exclusively for water infrastructure projects in Arizona. This ensures Arizona receives much-needed investments for local water infrastructure projects, including water supply agreements for agricultural and municipal stakeholders in Arizona who will be impacted by Colorado River water decreases. 
  • Cleaning Up Abandoned Uranium Mines: Through his role on the EPW committee, Kelly amended the existing law to specify that, just like abandoned non-coal mine sites on federal land, the cost share for abandoned non-coal mine sites on tribal land should be 100 percent. Too often, the 50/50 cost-share places a burden on tribal communities to mitigate the risks of abandoned uranium and hard-rock mining sites.
  • Keeping Arizonans Safe from Floods: At Kelly’s urging, WRDA authorizes the Army Corps to work with the Flood Control District of Maricopa County to repair the aging McMicken Dam which protects about 130,000 residents, the Phoenix Goodyear Airport, I-10, and the Air Force Base from stormwater floods. Kelly also supported language in WRDA which authorizes the Army Corps to develop a flood control project to protect the town of Dudleyville from catastrophic floods which makes roadways impassible for this small community in rural Arizona.
  • Extended Tribal Partnership Program (TPP) Until 2033: Kelly secured an extension until 2033 for this critical program which tribes use for a variety of water quality projects that include drought and water conservation projects. 
  • Accountability in Water Conservation Projects: For too long, the Corps has under-valued the benefits of water conservation and drought relief projects, which meant fewer funding opportunities. Thanks to Kelly’s leadership, the committee will require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study evaluating how the Corps accounts for a project’s ability to prepare for, contain, or respond to drought conditions when calculating the overall benefits of a project.  
  • Drought as New Eligibility for Water Projects: Kelly successfully advocated to grant the Army Corps, for the first time, the authority to carry out projects related to combatting drought such as watershed conservation efforts or otherwise responding to drought conditions. The scope of the Corps’ authorities historically do not include drought.
  • Pilot Study on Western Infrastructure: The Army Corps has never done a specific study focused on how to improve water conservation and improve drought resilience at dams and reservoirs in the western United States. Kelly requested a study to focus on Corps-owned or operated facilities in the western United States, including potential demonstration projects. At Kelly’s urging, the Corps must complete the study within three years of enactment and transmit the findings of the study in a report to Congress.
  • Groundwater Resiliency: As drought conditions in the West persist, groundwater has become a more critical source of drinking water and water for agricultural usage. Kelly secured language that authorizes the Army Corps to carry out managed aquifer recharge projects which boost groundwater resiliency. It also directs the Corps to conduct a national assessment of managed aquifer recharge projects to determine best practices.

Kelly also secured expedited completions for the following Arizona projects: 

*indicates the project also received Kelly-requested federal funding in this year’s omnibus bill