Washington – The House overwhelmingly approved a final water resources bill  Tuesday, and although she’s new to Congress, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District has already gotten the hang of finding ways to  help to local communities in the popular legislation.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act was approved in the House in a 412-4 vote and is expected to be approved by the Senate soon.

U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District CTMirror File Photo

It’s popular because it funds local Army Corps of Engineer projects, especially since Congress is barred from putting earmarks, or special projects in legislation.

But by using broad legislative language, Esty was able to include a provision in the bill that mandates a comprehensive review of regulations regarding vegetation on or near levees.

That would help Torrington, which has been directed to take costly steps to maintain its levees on the Naugatuck River in compliance with decades-old standards required by the Army Corps of Engineers, including the removal of vegetation, Esty says.

But Esty says the Army Corps  does not manage vegetation, a  restriction that has hindered the city’s ability to revitalize the area “in an economically and environmentally sensible way.”

“I’m proud that a bill I’ve worked on since coming to Congress passed today with strong bipartisan support,” Esty said. “This is exactly what Congress needs to do — work together to pass common sense bills that spur economic growth, rebuild our infrastructure, create jobs, and cut bureaucratic red tape.”

Esty also lauded the bill’s elimination of $18 billion in old, inactive projects, which she said will “clear the way for new projects.”

But Taxpayers for Common Sense, an anti- spending  group, called the bill a “boondoggle.”

It “is a missed opportunity to reform management of our nation’s infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner,” Taxpayers for Common Sense said. “ Faced with a $17.5 trillion debt, a Corps of Engineers construction backlog exceeding $60 billion, and the need for innovation in managing our growing infrastructure burden, [Congress] chose instead to mostly continue business as usual. “

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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