Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Ranking Member David Rouzer (R-NC) from today’s hearing entitled, “Water Resources Development Acts: Status of Implementation and Assessing Future Needs”:
Thank you, Chair Napolitano, for holding this hearing, and thank you to our witnesses for being here today to discuss the important work of the Army Corps of Engineers. In particular, I’d like to thank Dr. Michael F. Piehler, Director of the Institute for the Environment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for taking the time to appear here and provide his expertise today.
I’m proud to serve on this committee, which has passed four major, transformational WRDA laws during the last four Congresses to improve our Nation’s water resources infrastructure. Given this tremendous accomplishment, I would like to see the Corps expeditiously implement the significant reforms made by these laws.
As we look forward to future water resources legislation, one issue that cannot be overlooked is the inland and coastal flooding that has occurred across the Nation.
All areas of North Carolina—from coastal and surrounding counties, to the mountains—have experienced significant flooding events on numerous occasions. Most recently, in November, Tropical Storm Eta hit North Carolina hard, resulting in flooding that caused 12 deaths, required dozens of people to be rescued, and caused more than $20 million in damages. In addition, there was Hurricane Florence in 2018, Matthew in 2016, Floyd in 1999, and Fran in 1996, to name a few even more devastating events. Historic flooding such as this should spur us to re-examine infrastructure, to ensure it is updated and capable of protecting life and property.
These disasters pose an important question to Congress: what can we do to help prevent future flooding? And equally importantly, how can we improve infrastructure within our states to reduce the risk of dam and levee breaches, flooded homes and businesses, and to better protect our coasts?
In addition to storm events, we’ve seen significant economic loss in places throughout the country where barges and boats can no longer navigate our inland waterways. Much of this waterborne commerce is dependent on infrastructure that was initially constructed in the 1970s, 1960s, or earlier, and is quickly approaching the end of its design life.
So, as we reflect on these floods — the hardship and devastation they bring — and the other issues our Nation faces with aging water infrastructure, it is important for this committee to continue its bipartisan commitment to work and pass critical water resources legislation. Our citizens can’t afford the devastating effects of floods to their homes, farms, businesses, and communities. We owe the American people our absolute best efforts to help them on this.
I look forward to hearing about implementation of WRDA 2020 and the previous but more recent WRDAs as well as hearing constructive ideas from our witnesses on addressing future water resources infrastructure needs.
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