DeFazio Blasts Republican Leadership for Jeopardizing Oregon’s Fishing Industry and Coastal Economy
Today, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) blasted Republican leadership for sabotaging bipartisan legislation that would have created and sustained needed jobs and boosted economic growth in Oregon’s coastal communities.
For months, DeFazio worked with a group of bipartisan negotiators to finalize the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA), now called the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN), which authorizes funding for the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) navigation, flood control, and environmental restoration projects. This legislation would have directly benefitted Oregon’s ports. However, at the last minute, Republican leadership added a controversial California drought plan that will jeopardize Oregon’s fishing industry. The House passed the WIIN Act 360-61—DeFazio voted against the legislation.
“For months, I worked with my Republican counterparts on a WRDA bill that would have strengthened coastal communities and our environment, and created and sustained thousands of jobs. Instead of passing that bipartisan bill, Republican leadership added a last-minute, 90-page poison pill that will allow California to divert scarce water from the Sacramento River Bay-Delta. Diverting water from this critical watershed risks a shutdown of the West Coast fishery, and thousands of good-paying jobs that depend on healthy fisheries. Despite the many victories that I was able to secure, including dedicated funding for small port dredging, I could not support this bill,” said DeFazio.
This is the second time the Republican leadership have interfered with what had been a bipartisan agreement on this legislation. In September, Republican leaders stripped from the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 DeFazio’s provision to ensure that funds collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund are only used for harbor maintenance—not for unrelated government spending. The additional investment from this provision would have created and sustained needed jobs in Oregon’s coastal communities, would have made conditions safer for our fishing and recreation industries, and would have provided a tremendous boost to our economic competiveness.
PERMANENT FUNDING FOR SMALL PORTS
“I was able to secure a number of priorities that are victories for Oregon’s coastal communities. I am happy that the legislation includes my provision to guarantee that small ports receive a minimum of $90 million annually and no less than 10 percent of the Corps’ overall Operations and Maintenance funding each year for infrastructure needs. This measure will ensure that some of our most critical needs will be met in our ports and harbors—no matter what size,” said DeFazio.
For years, the Federal Government has neglected to invest in our nation’s small ports and harbors. DeFazio has fought repeatedly during his time in Congress to secure federal funds to dredge small ports along Oregon’s south coast. In 2014, he secured a provision that temporarily guaranteed funding for small, emerging ports. The legislation passed today makes that provision permanent.
DeFazio advocated for a number of additional provisions that are part of the final legislation, including:
- Funding to help the city of Flint, Michigan protect its citizens and children from the ongoing health risks resulting from lead contamination of its water system.
- A provision that directs the federal government to fund a study of the conditions of federal breakwaters and jetties that protect the nation’s coastal ports. Like levees and dams before, the condition of the nation’s water-related infrastructure is deteriorating. This federal study will provide necessary information detailing the true state of our jetties so Congress can take future steps to address the backlog of critical projects.
- A provision that increases federal transparency by requiring the Corps to make publicly available all data related to federal dredging contracts, including volumes, federal cost estimates, winning bid price, and other submitted bid offers.
- A provision to boost youth service and conservation corps programs, which give American youth the opportunity to volunteer or work at maintenance projects at Corps recreational facilities.
- The authorization of federal funding for the Lower Willamette River Environmental Dredging and Ecosystem Restoration Project, which will restore ecosystem functions by reconnecting floodplain habitat to the river and improving fish and wildlife habitats.
- Authorization of a new Columbia River Basin Program to help reduce toxic contamination and clean-up contaminated sites in the Columbia River Basin.
- Authorization of a program to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species in Oregon’s waterways. Preventing the infestation of aquatic invasive species in new regions ultimately saves us higher costs down the road, since the Fish and Wildlife Service projects an infestation of zebra and quagga mussels in the Columbia River would cost hydro-electric facilities hundreds of millions of dollars (between $300-$500 million) annually.
- Language that guarantees rural Oregon irrigation districts are not penalized for taking federal loans that allow them to improve water quality. Recently, EPA informed Oregon DEQ that Irrigation Districts no longer qualify for a federal subsidy for projects that address nonpoint source pollution, like pollution from agriculture, irrigation, and natural runoff. This provision reinstates the subsidization in the form of principal forgiveness and will ensure these long-term efforts to improve water quality continue.