Congress Overrides President's Veto Of Water Resources Bill

1st Override Of A Bush Veto; Supported By Leahy, Sanders, Welch

NEWS from Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Bernie Sanders

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Nov. 8) - The U.S. Senate Thursday joined the House of Representatives in overriding President Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) - the first time Congress has overridden a veto during the Bush Administration. The bipartisan Senate vote was 79 to 14 in favor of overriding the veto.

The bill authorizes water resources projects in Vermont and nationwide, which now will be subject to funding in the annual Appropriations process.

Sanders said, "As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I am delighted that Congress was able to override the president's veto in a strong, bipartisan way. This legislation lays the groundwork for vitally important ecosystem restoration projects throughout Vermont from Lake Champlain to the Connecticut River. The Water Resources Development Act also provides authority for dam construction and other projects to prevent flood damage in Vermont and across the country."

Reacting to the veto override, Leahy said, "I am pleased an overwhelmingly bipartisan Senate majority overturned President Bush's veto of this bill. This is an important piece of our efforts to clean up and protect Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River. These investments support the good stewardship of our lakes and rivers that Vermonters support and deserve. The strong showing in this override vote shows that the Bush Administration's practice of snubbing domestic priorities while shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars to Iraq has its limits, even on the Republican side of the aisle. The President is out of touch with a growing bipartisan majority in the country. I hope this vote signals a turning point for the President's partisan-inspired veto threats, especially for other important upcoming legislation like the Farm Bill and all of the Appropriations bills."

The Vermont authorizations originated in the Senate's version of the WRDA bill and were sponsored by Leahy and Sanders. Following is a summary of the Vermont provisions:

Vermont Highlights In The WRDA Bill


LAKE CHAMPLAIN WATERSHED -- Reauthorizes the Corps of Engineers' existing Lake Champlain restoration and remediation program. Expands the authorization to include geographic mapping activities. Increases funding authorization from $20 million to $32 million.

LAKE CHAMPLAIN INVASIVE PLANT CONTROL -- Authorizes projects to control the spread of nonnative plants in the Lake Champlain Basin.

UPPER CONNECTICUT RIVER BASIS RESTORATION -- Authorizes general management plan development and critical ecosystem restoration projects - such as stream bank stabilization, invasive species control, water quality improvement and habitat protection -- in conjunction with the Upper Connecticut River Commission and the states of Vermont and New Hampshire. The bill authorizes $20 million for these efforts.

CONNECTICUT RIVER DAMS -- Authorizes projects to structurally modify dams on the Connecticut River to reduce ecological impacts. These modifications have been agreed to by the State of Vermont, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Corps of Engineers. Authorization: $30,000,000

UPPER CONNECTICUT RIVER WETLANDS RESTORATION -- Authorizes projects to restore wetlands in the Upper Connecticut River Basin, which was designated an American Heritage River in 1998. Authorization: $5,000,000

The bill also includes a reform amendment by Welch and others to improve oversight of Army Corps of Engineers water infrastructure projects, updating guidelines that have not been changed since 1983.