Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Water Resources Projects and Policy

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Thursday, March 15, 2018 @ 10:00 | Contact: Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446

This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

Summary of Subject Matter

Chief's Reports
Annual Reports to Congress on Future Water Resources Development Projects

Witness List:

  • The Honorable R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Civil Works | Written Testimony
  • Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite, Commanding General and Chief of Engineers, United States Army Corps of Engineers | Written Testimony


    Shuster and Graves Opening Statements

  • Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA)
    Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
    (Remarks as Prepared)
    This hearing is a critical step in the process for developing the next Water Resources Development Act.  Effective and reliable water infrastructure is vital to America’s global competitiveness. It supports local and regional economic development, and creates jobs.

    When I became Chairman of the Committee in 2013, Congress had not passed a WRDA for seven years.  While WRDA bills traditionally enabled Congress to carry out our clear Federal role in addressing the Nation’s infrastructure, we were no longer able to move these bills under the old process.  As a result, important authorizations for infrastructure improvements across America went unaddressed.

    One of my first goals as Chairman was reaffirming Congress’ role in how we prioritize and invest in these critical, locally driven, but nationally vital projects.

    Our Committee established a transparent process that allowed us to again consider these bills, and we returned to a two-year WRDA cycle.  We have now successfully passed bipartisan bills in the previous two Congresses, and we will consider another this year.

    Today’s hearing is part of our transparent process, established in the 2014 law, for reviewing water resources development projects and related policies for the next bill.

    As we look forward to a WRDA 2018, we want to ensure that we are building off the transformational reforms from WRRDA 2014 and the 2016 law.  Additionally, we need to drive more efficient project delivery in order to take advantage of every resource we have available, and to truly achieve a 21st century infrastructure for America.

    Chairman Garret Graves (R-LA)
    Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
    (Remarks as Prepared)
    The Corps of Engineers constructs projects critical to the nation for the purposes of navigation, flood control, shoreline protection, hydroelectric power, recreation, environmental protection, restoration and enhancement, and fish and wildlife mitigation.

    Today we will review six Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Reports that have been delivered to Congress since the WIIN Act was signed into law, which contained the Water Resources Development Act of 2016.  Additionally, the Corps of Engineers delivered to Congress one Post Authorization Change Report, recommending modifications to the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. 

    These six Chief’s Reports and one Post Authorization Change Report are the result of a rigorous planning process.  These projects are proposed by non-federal interests in cooperation and consultation with the Corps.  All of these reports, while tailored to meet locally developed needs, have national economic and environmental benefits.

    Since the enactment of the WIIN Act, the Corps has also transmitted two Annual Reports on Future Water Resources Development, as required by Section 7001 of WRRDA 2014.

    The Annual Reports identify completed feasibility reports, proposed feasibility studies, and proposed modifications to authorized projects or studies for potential congressional authorization, and are based upon annual requests from non-Federal interests.

    Today we will also examine the Corps’ policy by which these critical projects are implemented.

    As you know, our nation’s water resources infrastructure is underfunded and in need of updating.  Our ports struggle to maintain their navigation channels at their fully authorized depths, directly impacting our global competitiveness.  It is not just our navigation system that needs to be upgraded, but also our levees and dam systems, which are on average over 50 years old.

    Right now, there is a backlog of 1,000 projects totaling approximately $96 billion in need.  With an annual Corps construction budget of less than $2 billion, the simple reality is that we will likely never catch up.  Therefore, it is absolutely vital that the Corps is working as efficiently as possible.

    I want to thank you for including in your testimony a discussion of the President’s infrastructure legislative principles that are directly applicable to the Corps Civil Works responsibilities.

    Additionally, I look forward to discussing the steps taken by the Corps, as well as ongoing internal efforts, to drive efficacy and efficiency at all levels of the organization.

    I will say it again, the status quo is simply not good enough.  In the end, we have a lot of work to do in order to ensure that our water resources system can sustain the competitiveness of the American economy and protect our national security.

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