Water bill could help Connecticut in navigation, flood protection

The Senate voted this week on a water resources bill Connecticut lawmakers hope will clear the way to fund dozens of projects in Connecticut, including the dredging of New Haven Harbor, 18 beach erosion projects along the coastline and hurricane barriers in Stamford, New London and Pawcatuck.

In a rare display of bipartisanship, the Water Resources Development Act was approved by an overwhelming margin of 83-14. Unlike past reauthorizations of the bill, the bill has no earmarks because it must adhere to Congress’ ban on special projects.

But by authorizing millions of dollars for Army Corps of Engineer projects, Connecticut lawmakers hope some of the state’s needs will be addressed.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the actual money for these projects will depend on next year’s budget, which is a battleground for Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

He said President Obama, in his budget request, included money for the dredging of New Haven Harbor, a project that will cost $8 .6 million.

“Connecticut ports have been waiting for years for money to keep their harbors open,” Blumenthal said.

The bill also approves continued funding for existing Army Corps projects.

The Obama administration criticized the bill for speeding up environmental reviews and doing little to address the Army Corps’ backlog of projects. The bill now goes to the House.