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Chair DeFazio Examines Resiliency in the Nation’s Water Infrastructure

Nov 19, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C.Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04) held a hearing today to examine how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) can continue to meet its missions of flood control, ecosystem restoration, and navigation, while addressing the challenges posed by climate change and modernizing our water-related infrastructure to address resiliency challenges. The nation is experiencing historic extreme weather conditions which impact the Corps—three of the highest-volume U.S. rainfall events on record have occurred in the last three years causing extreme flooding and most of the western United States was in extreme drought through 2018. The Corps is the nation’s largest water resources development and management agency. It operates more than 700 dams; has constructed 14,500 miles of levees; and maintains more than 1,000 coastal, Great Lakes, and inland harbors, as well as 12,000 miles of inland waterways.

Following are DeFazio’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery. DeFazio’s remarks as delivered can be found here.

“Today’s hearing deals with the resiliency of our water infrastructure. Want to see the impacts of climate change?  Look no further than water. You can see this through sea level rise, glacier melt, and extreme weather events through droughts, hurricanes, and record rainfall. The three largest rainfall events on record in the U.S. have occurred in the last three years. The Lower Mississippi River set the record for longest known flood from December 2018 to August 2019. We’ve dealt with hurricanes Katrina, Florence, Matthew, Irma, and Maria at a staggering pace. 

“Even if you don’t believe that this is a result of climate change, we can at least agree that these extreme hydrologic events are no longer the exception and are now becoming the norm. Let’s look at it from a fiscal perspective: more than 75% of declared Federal disasters are related to floods, and annual flood losses average almost $8 billion with over 90 fatalities per year. In 2019 alone, we have had 10 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. This includes 3 flooding events, 5 severe storm events, and 2 tropical cyclone events.

“The Corps plays a crucial role in managing for these risks as the largest water manager in the Nation.  Investing in resiliency not only helps to protect our communities but also helps reduce future spending on disasters. We need to better prepare our communities to understand the risks associated with extreme weather events. How we work with academia through research and innovation is also key.

“It is imperative that we support initiatives that work toward reducing carbon emissions, combating rising sea levels, investing in renewable energy, and building resilient infrastructure. I am considering ways to do this across all areas of our jurisdiction. Whether its reducing carbon emissions across all modes of transportation or reducing greenhouse gas emissions from pipelines and wastewater systems - we must do more.

“As this committee discusses moving forward on a Water Resources Development Act in the next year, ensuring that our communities are dealing with and managing risk associated with extreme hydrologic events is important and must be part of the discussion. 

“Thank you.”