U.S. Senate Passes Kelly-Shaped Bill to Secure Arizona’s Water Future 

The bipartisan bill will ensure Arizona federal Arizona water infrastructure projects get more funding faster 

Today, the United States Senate passed the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (WRDA) crafted by Arizona Senator Mark Kelly. As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Kelly successfully advocated for provisions that will streamline the process to ensure Arizona water infrastructure projects can quickly receive more funding for existing flood control and infrastructure projects, clean up old uranium mines on tribal land, and open the door to more Army Corps assistance for drought mitigation projects in Arizona. 

“Arizona is facing a historic drought and we need solutions now,” said Senator Kelly who shaped the Water Resources Development Act of 2022. “Our bipartisan bill cuts through bureaucratic red tape to ensure that Arizona has the resources and tools needed to protect its precious water resources now and for generations to come. I’ll keep working with Republicans and Democrats to get our bill across the finish line.” 

“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 included language in WRDA 2022 that will expedite 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 bi-cameral and bi-partisan WRDA 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.

“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 increase the pace of and scale investments in both water conservation and natural infrastructure solutions. This will reduce our vulnerability to natural disasters, enhancing the health of fish and wildlife habitat, and improve the overall resilience of Western watersheds.”

Since taking office, Kelly has championed legislation and delivered results that will make Arizona more resilient to drought and help the state secure its water future. Earlier this year, Kelly announced that he secured funding for several Arizona water infrastructure projects in this year’s government funding bill such as the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project and the Cities of Glendale and Peoria Water Supply Inter-Connect Project. The Kelly-shaped Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also provided $109.4 million to help Arizona upgrade and modernize its aging water and wastewater infrastructure. 

See a breakdown of the provisions Kelly secured below: 

  • Cutting Red Tape to Complete Stalled Arizona Water Projects: Two projects in Arizona, the Rio de Flag project in Flagstaff and the Tres Rios project in Phoenix have both hit federally imposed cost-increase thresholds that prevent them from completing the work. Kelly secured a three-year waiver for these projects to allow them to proceed.
  • 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 in 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: Abandoned uranium and hard-rock mining sites on tribal lands continue to pose serious health risks to tribal communities. Too often, the 50/50 cost-share places a burden on tribal communities to mitigate the risks of these mines. 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. 
  • Keeping Arizonans Safe from Floods: Kelly secured language authorizing 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.
  • Extended Tribal Partnership Program (TPP) Until 2033: This program, which tribes use for a variety of water quality projects, including drought and water conservation projects, was set to expire this year. Kelly advocated for and secured an extension until 2033.
  • 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 advocacy, 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: Army Corps authorities were historically limited to a narrow scope for projects which did not include drought. In this bill, Kelly successfully advocated to give the Corps the authority to carry out projects related to combatting drought such as watershed conservation efforts or otherwise respond to drought conditions. 
  • 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. The Corps must complete the study within three years of enactment and transmit the findings of the study in a report to Congress.

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.