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Chairs DeFazio and Napolitano’s Opening Statements From Markup of the Water Resources Development Act

May 18, 2022

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) during today’s committee markup of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022.

Videos of opening statements from DeFazio and Napolitano can be found here and here.

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Chair DeFazio:

Earlier this week, I was joined by Ranking Member Graves, Subcommittee Chairwoman Napolitano, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Rouzer in introducing H.R. 7776, the Water Resources Development Act of 2022. This bill, when successfully enacted, will mark the fifth consecutive bipartisan, biennial WRDA passed since 2014. 

Back then, former Chairman Bill Shuster made a commitment to enacting a new, bipartisan water resources bill every two years. That tradition has continued, unabated, since that time, and biennial consideration of WRDA legislation is now the regular order of this committee. I hope that today’s markup demonstrates that WRDA still works. 

WRDA 2022 will be the twelfth water resources bill enacted since I came to Congress and joined this committee in 1987. For much of that time, I worked to unlock critical harbor maintenance funds for our nation’s ports and harbors. In WRDA 2020, I was finally successful, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time as the global pandemic laid bare the vulnerability of our overburdened ports. The WRDA we are marking up today builds on that success.

H.R. 7776 was developed in a bipartisan manner, with input and ideas from both sides of the aisle. The projects and policy provisions included reflect input not only from members of the committee, but from the entire House of Representatives.

WRDA 2022 authorizes construction of 16 projects studied and approved by the Chief of Engineers since WRDA 2020 was signed into law. It also authorizes 72 new Corps of Engineers feasibility studies and directs the Corps to expedite the completion of 15 ongoing studies—all of which were submitted to the Corps by local sponsors willing to share the costs of these project studies.

WRDA 2022 authorizes critical navigation projects and studies at places like Coos Bay, Oregon; Long Beach, California; Houston, Texas; and Norfolk, Virginia. It will help to meet the demands at our ports and ensure we head off future supply chain challenges before they develop. Additionally, the bill authorizes the Corps to undertake a study and make recommendations on the nation’s dredging capacity so we can ensure the Corps is able to take full advantage of investments unlocked by WRDA 2020.

WRDA 2022 meets the challenge of climate change by rebuilding and maintaining critical navigation jetties and breakwaters to dimensions necessary to address sea-level rise and extreme weather. From studying the impacts of coastal storms on inland flooding to addressing the future water supply needs of the arid West, this bill works to make communities more resilient.

Making WRDA work is essential to communities throughout the country since nearly 80 percent of traded goods that Americans rely on is moved through our nation’s ports, harbors, and inland waterways. 

Our economy, our safety, and our environment will benefit from the passage of WRDA 2022. With overburdened ports, threats from climate change, and the need to support our communities, the time to act is now. I am proud of our work on this bill, and I urge my colleagues to join me in support of this important legislation.
 
Chair Napolitano:

Good Morning. I am pleased to join Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Rouzer in introducing and marking up the Water Resources Development Act of 2022. 

The Water Resources Development Act is our legislative commitment to investing in and protecting our communities from flooding events, restoring our environment and ecosystems, and keeping our nation’s competitiveness by supporting our ports and harbors.  

Through the biennial enactment of WRDA legislation, this committee has addressed local, regional, and national needs through authorization of new U.S Army Corps of Engineers projects, studies, and policies that benefit every corner of the nation. 

I am particularly thankful that we were able to make a commitment in this WRDA to address the needs of tribal and disadvantaged communities. The bill requires the Army Corps of Engineers to improve outreach to these communities by creating liaison programs in each Corps district region across the country. WRDA includes provisions to develop technical assistance programs that provide guidance to tribal communities on water resource projects, identify opportunities and challenges on existing Corps projects, and provide planning assistance for future projects.  The bill gives Corps engineers the training and tools to effectively address issues on tribal lands of ancestral, historic, and cultural significance, including burial grounds.

WRDA also continues the effort that we started 10 years ago to improve water supply at Corps dams by addressing managed aquifer replenishment so that dams can hold water for recharge to local ground water basins. The bill addresses the buildup and removal of sediment in reservoirs to improve the operations and capacity of dams. The bill requires the Corps to take a particular focus on infrastructure in the west to evaluate opportunities to improve water management, water supply, and address the impacts of climate change.

Section 116 of the bill continues Congress’s goal of improving dam safety by assessing the status of all dams maintained by the Corps and determining the needs for rehabilitation, retrofit, or removal.

Section 128 of the bill is bipartisan legislation Ranking Member Rouzer and I introduced titled H.R. 7762, the Army Corps of Engineers Military Personnel Augmentation Act. It amends an outdated 1956 law, which is prohibitive against current soldiers who have the technical skills to provide engineering support to the civil works mission of the Army Corps. 

In 1956, there were not a lot of NCOs with advanced degrees, so it was presumed that only commissioned officers would be properly trained to handle Civil Works responsibilities. However, since that time and the development of the professional army, there are many NCOs, National Guard Officers, and Warrant Officers with advanced engineering and technical skills, and it no longer makes sense to exclude them from positions in Civil Works. This change is supported by the Secretary of the Army, the Chief of Engineers, and the National Guard Association of the United States.

The bill also provides for hundreds of local concerns throughout the country. I am proud that this bill transfers the authorization of 31 debris basins in my region to the Los Angeles County Flood Control District. These debris basins are locally owned, and have been successfully operated and maintained by Los Angeles County for decades. This provision will formalize the current operation of these debris basins. 

WRDA includes authorizations for the development of stormwater, sewer, and ecosystem restoration projects in the San Gabriel Valley and greater Los Angeles County. This will improve flood protection and boost local water supply at the same time by investing in spreading grounds, dam infrastructure, and treatment operations.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank the many people who have helped this bill become a reality.  Thank you to the leadership at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Assistant Secretary Connor, Lieutenant General Spellmon, and their incredible staff who have worked through over a thousand submissions we received for WRDA 2022. 

I am very fortunate to have some of the best water leaders in the country in my district and Southern California who provided valuable input for this bill including Col. Julie Balten and David Van Dorpe of the Los Angeles District, Los Angeles County Supervisors Hilda Solis and Kathryn Barger, Los Angeles County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella,  California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Metropolitan Water District Board Chair Gloria Grey, and San Gabriel Valley Watermaster Tony Zampiello.

I would particularly like to thank the Subcommittee Ranking Member David Rouzer for his friendship and collegiality through the hearings and meetings that led to this bipartisan accomplishment. And most importantly I would like to thank the incredible water subcommittee staff including Alexa Williams, Logan Ferree, Michael Bauman, Ryan Seiger, Ryan Hambleton, Ian Whitson, and the rest of the majority and minority staff.

I urge my colleagues to support WRDA 2022!

I yield back. 
  

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