Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2020

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Thursday, January 09, 2020 @ 10:00 | Contact: Justin Harclerode 202-225-9446

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

Official Transcript

Witness List:

Honorable Rickey Dale “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, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers | Written Testimony

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-AR):

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO):
This hearing will help us review water resources development projects and related policies as this Committee begins its work on another WRDA bill.  Effective and reliable water infrastructure is vital to America’s global competitiveness – it supports economic development and creates jobs.

Even more critical, this infrastructure protects American homes, businesses, and lives.

The unprecedented levels of flooding last year in the Missouri River Basin and Mississippi River Valley inundated hundreds of thousands of acres across Northern Missouri.

Nearly every levee in my district overtopped or breached along our rivers, leaving families little time to gather belongings before fleeing their homes, and leaving farmers helpless to move livestock, grain, and machinery ahead of advancing floodwaters.  As a result, nearly 1.4 million acres of Missouri farmland went unplanted in 2019 – devastating to the farmers and families who depend on that land for a living.

Even 10 months after the first levee breaches in my district, some of those areas are still underwater.

There needs to be an adjustment made in how the Corps considers the protection of people’s lives and property.  I can assure you this will be a top priority of mine throughout the development of the WRDA bill, and I look forward to hearing how the Corps is preparing itself for the 2020 flood season.

I also want to assure you, Secretary James and General Semonite, that I will continue to focus on the continued construction of IRCs – interception-rearing complexes – that is nothing more than a multi-million dollar science experiment paid for by taxpayers.  Even the Corps has admitted that they are unsure if these structures will help the recovery of the pallid sturgeon in the Missouri River.

It is absolutely critical that we determine whether these unproven IRC structures even work AND that they don’t negatively impact navigation and flood control before even considering the construction of more of them.

Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-AR):
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 the 16 Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Reports that have been delivered to Congress since WRDA 2018 was signed into law in October of 2018.  This is the same number of projects authorized by that bill, with more to be received later this year.  

These reports are the result of a rigorous planning and review process.  Each project was 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.

When constructed, Corps projects ensure that communities are protected from floods, and that our Nation remains globally competitive through a reliable and efficient port and inland waterway system. 

Today we will also review the 2019 Annual Report to Congress on Future Water Resources Development.  The Annual Report enables non-federal interests to submit to the Corps proposed feasibility studies, and modifications to projects and other program authorities.

Required by Section 7001 of the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act, the Annual Report enables state and local entities to send up projects critical to their communities and provides another avenue for Congressional consideration and authorization.  

This hearing today is an important step in Congress’s oversight of the Corps Civil Works program, and the reports reviewed today will serve as the foundation for the Water Resources Development Act this Committee will consider later this year. 

Finally, General Semonite, I understand this could be your last time before this committee in your current capacity.  I want to thank you for your years of service, your considerable effort to drive accountability and efficiency within the Corps, and your dedication to the Nation.

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