Opening remarks, as prepared, of Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-AR) from today’s Full Committee markup of H.R. 7575, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020, of which Graves and Westerman are both cosponsors:
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO):
I am proud to be a cosponsor of the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA), along with Chair DeFazio, Chair Napolitano, and Ranking Member Westerman.
For the past few months, both sides have been working hard to reach the agreement reflected in this bill, and I appreciate the bipartisan effort that went into this effort. When this Committee operates in a bipartisan manner, our work has the most positive impact for our Nation’s infrastructure.
Throughout the United States, nearly every community relies on ports somewhere in the supply chain to get the products its people need, on inland waterways to move the commodities it makes and grows, or on flood protection infrastructure to safeguard homes and businesses.
America’s inland water transportation networks and flood protection infrastructure is especially important to my home State of Missouri, where we experienced devastating floods in 2019 – dangers that continue to threaten many of the same areas a year later.
On the Missouri River, record flooding destroyed homes, farms, and businesses. Many areas are still working to recover and will for some time to come. We can’t continue to subject towns in my district like Big Lake or Craig, Missouri, to this devastation year after year.
This bill authorizes a bold new plan to work towards combating repeated flood events. By evaluating ways to reduce flood risks in the Lower Missouri River Basin, we can develop a path forward that protects our people and our property. This is just the first step, but the folks in the Lower Missouri River Basin deserve the clarity and protection that such a plan will ultimately provide when it is completed.
It’s not just the Missouri River though. My district is also bordered by the Mississippi River, with local communities facing similar challenges with flood control and navigation. To that end, this legislation provides new authority for the construction of permanent flood control structures in communities that experience repetitive losses as a result of flood events.
Time after time, communities in North Missouri have been inundated by flood waters only to rebuild back to the same standards – and then have to do it all over again because nothing changes. We’ve got to reduce the bureaucracy, so we can get flood control structures completed in a much faster manner.
Likewise, making improvements to the P.L. 84-99 program is another important piece of WRDA this year. Here we are a year after devastating flooding, and I continue to receive calls to provide assistance to levee districts and communities on both the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers about issues they are having with the program. Streamlining the P.L. 84-99 program so projects can be done efficiently and effectively is critical to the survival of our river communities.
Another item I’ve worked on for years, and I’m pleased to see in this bill, is the delayed construction and further evaluation of Interception-Rearing Complexes (IRCs). These expensive, unproven projects are supposedly designed to save the pallid sturgeon, but we don’t even know if they work. What we do know is they are disastrous for navigation and flood control along the Missouri River. We’ve already seen the disastrous effects, and the Corps should not build any more IRCs until they can prove they will not negatively impact critical navigation and flood protection for our many towns, farms, and businesses.
I know these issues are important to other districts and regions as well. Many of the provisions in this bill will have positive impacts throughout the country and our economy.
Finally, as with all WRDA laws since 2014, this bill is fiscally responsible. The amount authorized in this bill is offset by deauthorizations of projects that are now out of date or no longer necessary.
Ultimately, WRDA 2020 will help keep America competitive, provide a foundation for job growth, foster a more robust economy, and protect our communities for years to come. I ask all members of the Committee to join me in supporting this bipartisan bill.
Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-AR):
Mr. Chair, H.R. 7575, the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, builds upon the successes of WRDA 2014, 2016, and 2018 – three important policy, project, and reform-focused pieces of legislation guiding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And these reforms are clearly having a positive effect if you just look at how many projects we are authorizing in this bill.
With more than 38 project authorizations right now, and likely more to come in the next couple months, we could easily surpass the projects authorized in WRRDA 2014, which had a seven-year gap since passage of the previous WRDA.
H.R. 7575 is a bipartisan bill that we developed by working across the aisle to achieve the common and vital goal of investing in America’s future competitiveness. H.R. 7575 strengthens our water transportation networks to promote prosperity and economic growth.
Importantly, this bill is the fourth WRDA in eight years, continuing the important business of enacting a WRDA bill every two years without conceding Congressional authority to the Executive Branch.
It also represents the good legislative work that can be accomplished when both parties work together to advance shared goals.
The Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, where I serve as Ranking Member, held numerous roundtables and hearings with public and private stakeholders in developing this legislation. A common theme we heard in these meetings was the need to improve the project delivery process and reduce the risk that communities face from flood events.
Over the past several years, my state and district, like so many, have experienced severe flooding. This bill gives the Corps the tools to help communities build back quicker and stronger. This legislation contains key provisions to do just that by:
I appreciate Chair DeFazio, Chair Napolitano, and Ranking Members Graves’ bipartisan work to address a vital need for America’s water resources infrastructure. I urge all Members to support H.R. 7575.
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