March 16, 2022

Chairs DeFazio, Napolitano Statements from Members’ Day Hearing for WRDA 2022

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) during today’s Members’ Day Hearing to examine Members’ priorities in the development of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022.”

Videos of opening statements from DeFazio and Napolitano can be found hereand here.

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Chair DeFazio:

Thank you, Chair Napolitano, for holding this hearing and welcome to our colleagues who have joined us today to talk about their priorities for a new Water Resources Development Act for 2022.

WRDAs are an important component of this committee’s ongoing efforts to modernize our nation’s infrastructure systems—an effort that has been marked with significant and bipartisan success.

In the past 14 months, this committee has helped pass the single-largest investment in our nation’s infrastructure in generations. Enactment of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will be remembered as the historic turning point from talk to action on serious investment in our nation’s economic future.

Why? Because the bipartisan infrastructure law provided once-in-a-generation investment in transportation—the highways, bridges, transit, rail, aviation, and maritime corridors that are so critical to our national, regional, and local economies—and supports the hard-working Americans who build, maintain, and repair our infrastructure. The benefits of the bipartisan infrastructure law will be felt by everyday Americans for decades—in safer roads and bridges, in greater mobility and less traffic, in clean, safe and reliable water and wastewater services, in reduced costs for goods and services, and in countless other ways.

The bipartisan infrastructure law also built upon prior successes of this committee to combat climate change in ways we’ve never done before and to ensure that future infrastructure investment is both climate resilient and more affordable to rural, Tribal, and economically disadvantaged communities across the nation. 
Many of these themes can also be found in last Congress’ bipartisan Water Resources Development Act of 2020, and upon which we continue to build in the development of a new WRDA for 2022.  That’s why enacting a WRDA bill every two years is important and a priority of this committee.

I am proud to have worked with former-Chairman Shuster to restore this committee’s tradition of moving a water resources development act every Congress. These bipartisan efforts have resulted in this committee enacting four consecutive WRDA bills since 2014.

Today, we take another step in continuing that tradition for the 117th Congress, with the goal of enacting a fifth-consecutive WRDA—something this committee has not achieved in decades.

Madam Chair, as we all know, WRDA bills provide the opportunity for communities and local sponsors to partner with the Corps on critical navigation, flood protection, and ecosystem restoration projects.

Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to hear both from the Biden administration and Corps’ stakeholders and non-Federal partners, including representatives of Tribal governments, on their priorities for the forthcoming WRDA bill.

Today, we provide our congressional colleagues the opportunity to present to the committee their local priorities and how the Corps may be able to assist their districts, their constituents, and the nation.

One of our greatest successes in WRDA 2020 was one that I had been working on for over two decades—to finally unlock federal investment in our nation’s ports and harbors. This provision—which has become even more important as our nation cautiously emerges from the global pandemic —ensures that funds already collected from importers and domestic shippers using coastal and inland ports is used to provide the Corps with sufficient annual revenues to keep our ports in a good state of repair, and to sustain our local, regional, and national economies that rely on the movement of goods and services through our commercial ports.

Similarly, this committee had great success in WRDA 2020 in requiring the Corps to make greater use of natural and nature-based alternatives to address coastal and inland flooding issues; in requiring the Corps to provide additional assistance to local sponsors, especially economically-disadvantaged communities, rural communities, and Tribal communities, in the development of future WRDA projects; and in addressing WRDA project affordability concerns. The committee continues to follow the Biden administration’s implementation of all these critical provisions.

Thank you, Chair Napolitano, as well as Ranking Member Sam Graves, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Rouzer, for your continued partnership in developing what I hope is a record-breaking fifth WRDA in a row. 

Thank you again for joining us today, and I look forward to working with all of you in passing a new WRDA for 2022.

Chair Napolitano:

This hearing is our third in a series this year to inform our development of a Water Resources Development Act for 2022. The Army Corps of Engineers are our largest water managers in the nation, and our resident experts on everything from flood prevention, to water supply, to aquatic ecosystem restoration.

We have so far heard excellent testimony from Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Michael Connor, as well as Lieutenant General Scott Spellmon, Chief of Engineers at the Corps.

We’ve also heard from highly engaged stakeholders, who shared helpful insight into the impacts and policies of the Corps’ work. Truly, every different perspective is helpful to our work here.

Today, we welcome Members of the House to present their priorities for consideration in WRDA 2022.  The Corps operates nationwide, with impacts on just about every single district in the country.

With a reach so far and wide, we need to make sure we recognize the district-specific issues facing our communities. These will be totally different on the east coast versus the west, and even different within a particular state. 

The testimony we receive today will help to inform us on what matters most to our colleagues as we move forward with drafting legislation. This local perspective is key to helping our communities achieve their desired outcomes and ensuring the Corps’ expertise is accessible to all those who seek it.

We are currently developing our fifth consecutive, bipartisan, WRDA bill. This is clear evidence that WRDA has become a product of its own success. Our constituents demand and now expect that we move forward in developing this legislation every Congress. This consistency and predictability is also essential to the Corps itself, and stakeholders across the country.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in enacting a fifth consecutive WRDA for 2022.

Thank you to all Members who have made time to come before the Committee today. I look forward to your testimony and working with you to write another successful WRDA bill and continue the important work of the Corps for water resources projects nationwide.
  

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