ICYMI: Weber, Babin, Shuster Op-Ed Highlights Importance of WRDA in Protecting Americans from Floods
The Houston Chronicle
America’s infrastructure is a continual point of discussion in Washington, now more than at any time in recent memory. The Trump administration helped raise the level of interest and deserves credit for taking executive action to expedite the completion of infrastructure improvements.
As leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, we oversee important pieces of legislation to improve and reform the way we invest in infrastructure. Our bills are often approved with bipartisan support because our fellow committee members understand how essential infrastructure is to every American and to our economic competitiveness.
As the conversation about a broad infrastructure plan continues to develop, our committee is moving ahead with its work. Four weeks ago, the House overwhelmingly approved an FAA and aviation infrastructure bill by a vote of 393 to 13. Last week, we turned our attention to the ports, dams, inland waterways, ecosystem restoration, flood protection systems and other components of the nation’s water resources infrastructure.
This infrastructure improves the arteries of commerce that move goods from our heartland to our coasts and connect American products to foreign markets, accounting for billions of dollars in economic activity. To protect and improve it, we introduced the Water Resources Development Act of 2018, commonly known as WRDA.
WRDA authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study and undertake infrastructure enhancements that strengthen our economy, connect and protect our communities, and bolster our competitiveness abroad. When Congress fails to pass WRDA, as it did in the seven years between 2007 and 2014, plans for water infrastructure improvements collect dust while those projects’ costs compound.
Fortunately WRDAs were signed into law in both 2014 and 2016, and on June 6, the House overwhelmingly passed our 2018 bill, 408 to 2. It’s critical to maintain regular order and continue sending these infrastructure bills to the president’s desk every two years. Simply put, WRDA works.
One specific example of how WRDA works is the Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay coastal storm risk management and ecosystem restoration project. With our bill, the Corps can begin construction on this improvement that will protect lives, communities and property.
Last year, the region was changed forever by Hurricane Harvey. The timely authorization of the Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay project will strengthen critical protections to neighborhoods, jobs, businesses and infrastructure. Port Arthur, which was underwater in the aftermath of Harvey, will benefit from higher levees and seawalls. Near Orange, the Corps will build a new system of over 26 miles of levees and floodwalls around the Sabine and Neches River floodplains. The third element of the project will focus on Freeport and its vicinity, raising and adding to floodwalls in Brazoria County. Additionally, through the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Study, the Corps is continuing to develop a comprehensive plan to provide long-term protection for the Gulf Coast region, including Galveston, Harris and Chambers counties. Overall, this project will provide long-lasting community protections and increase resilience for future storms.
Not all of the Corps’ missions focus on flood prevention. The agency also undertakes navigation improvements that are critical to every state. Ports such as Galveston, Houston, Beaumont, Orange, Freeport and Port Arthur host thousands of vessels per year, facilitating billions of dollars of economic activity and underpinning thousands of jobs in the region. WRDA 2018 authorizes the Galveston Harbor Channel Extension Project to make the entire Galveston Harbor Channel the same navigable depth and contribute significantly to the economic efficiency of commercial navigation in the region.
Throughout the nation, many of the goods we use every day find their way to us after traveling through one of the country’s ports or along our thousands of miles of navigable waterways. This efficient and effective transportation system gets our goods to and from markets, both domestic and abroad: another reason to maintain this infrastructure by regularly considering WRDA legislation.
There are many other examples of how WRDA works for America, and why we consider our work on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to be so important to our constituents and the country. We now call on the Senate to take action on these critical infrastructure issues and work with us to move America’s infrastructure into the 21st century.
Shuster of Pennsylvania serves as chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Weber and Babin represent Texas’ 14th and 36th congressional districts, respectively.