The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is federal legislation that provides the main vehicle for authorizing projects—for navigation, flood control, hydropower, recreation, water supply, and emergency management—to be studied, planned and developed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
The law does not appropriate funds for those projects and programs, however. It authorizes the projects, but the appropriation of funds must be addressed in subsequent legislation.
Congress initially passed WRDA in 1974, and typically, Congress has reformed or amended WRDA roughly every two years, though it has no legal obligation to do so.
Unlike the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act, with which many people are familiar, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is relatively obscure. However, it is a very important piece of legislation that can have a dramatic impact on your favorite beach or surf spot because WRDA funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Almost every coastal community in America is somehow affected by a Corps of Engineers project. The Corps of Engineers are responsible for many coastal armoring projects, beach fill projects, channel dredging for navigation, construction of dams and flood control projects, and wetlands alterations to name a few. While many of these projects are important to support our nation's economy, according to the National Wildlife Federation, "too many [projects] have been instigated by politically-driven ‘pork barrel' politics or the desire to bring federal dollars back to home districts, without serious regard for the environmental impacts."
The Water Resources Development Act is legislation that is the main vehicle for authorizing projects to be studied, planned and developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The WRDA is normally addressed every two years, although Congress has no legal obligation to do so. Congress passed the first WRDA bill in 1974. Before that, Congress authorized flood damage reduction projects through Flood Control Acts, and navigation projects through River and Harbor Acts. Since then, it has been passed in 1976, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1996, 1999, 2000. After 1976 there was a 10-year hiatus of no WRDAs and no new project authorizations due to a major standoff between the House, Senate and White House over cost sharing and environmental mitigation policies. In 1986, Congress passed a landmark WRDA bill containing 300 new projects, a similar number of de-authorizations for outdated projects, and for the first time, a requirement that all local sponsors pay a portion of project costs.
WRDA 2010 was introduced in the 111th Congress.
WRDA and how it relates to coastal protection and coastal activism was further discussed in an article that appeared in the December 2003 edition of Surfrider Foundation's publication Making Waves. Some information from that article is incorporated into the article on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.