Chair DeFazio Opening Remarks from WRDA Markup
The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) during today’s markup of the Water Resources Development Act of 2020.
On Monday, I was joined by Ranking Member Graves, Subcommittee Chairwoman Napolitano, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Westerman in introducing the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, the authorizing bill for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I am pleased to continue with T&I tradition, as this bill marks the fourth consecutive bipartisan WRDA since 2014.
The bill under consideration today was developed in a bipartisan manner, with input and ideas from both sides of the aisle. Unlike any other WRDA of the past, this bill had an added challenge of being drafted and negotiated virtually. Overcoming this challenge only underscores the important nature of this bill and the longstanding commitment by Congress to invest in the nation’s water infrastructure.
H.R. 7575 includes projects and policy provisions that impact communities across the nation. It authorizes construction of 34 projects studied and approved by the Chief of Engineers since WRDA 2018 was signed into law, which is five times more than approved in WRDA 2018.
It also authorizes 35 new Corps of Engineers feasibility studies and directs the Corps to expedite the completion of 41 ongoing studies – all of which were submitted to the Corps by local sponsors willing to share the costs of these project studies.
H.R. 7575 continues our work to ensure the full utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund by unlocking the nearly $10 billion dollars in previously collected funds that currently sit idle in the Trust Fund. I will not stop fighting until all the funds collected from shippers are used for their intended purpose – maintaining the safety and reliability of our nation’s ports.
The legislation also directs the Secretary of the Army to equitably allocate harbor maintenance expenditures to pay for harbor operation and maintenance needs, while addressing the ongoing needs of the nation’s largest ports, its Great Lakes harbors, and its emerging harbors.
This bill also recognizes the important role that the inland waterways play in our nation and provides a cost share shift to help in completing construction of much needed inland projects, and prioritized projects of importance to members of the Committee. I thank Rep. Connor Lamb for his tireless efforts for the Inland system.
Finally, this bill recognizes the important role of resiliency in helping our communities meet the current and future challenges of changing hydrologic conditions and repetitive and more frequent flooding events. I am glad to include provisions in this bill that will ensure taxpayer dollars are spent on infrastructure that will be resilient and will contribute to the resiliency of communities across the country.
WRDA 2020 also includes specific policies that focus on climate change, natural infrastructure solutions, affordability, and provisions that assist minority, tribal, and rural communities. This legislation ensures that all communities, especially communities with socio-economic challenges, have a path forward in getting the tools they need for flood protection and ecosystem restoration.
The Water Resources Development Act is essential to communities throughout the country that depend on the efficient, safe, and affordable usage of their ports, harbors and inland waterways.
Our economy, our safety, and our environment will benefit from the passage of WRDA 2020. I am proud of our work on this bill, and I urge my colleagues to join me in support of this important legislation.
Chair DeFazio’s statement as delivered can be found here.