VIDEO: Chair DeFazio Manages Floor Debate on the Water Resources Development Act of 2020
Washington, D.C. — Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) managed debate as the U.S. House of Representatives considered the bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA 2020).
“The bill under consideration today was developed in a bipartisan, bicameral manner, with input and ideas from both sides of the aisle,” Chair DeFazio said in his remarks. “This legislation builds on the successes of H.R. 7575, which was passed out of the House, by voice vote, earlier this summer. This final agreement reflects the priorities of members from both chambers and from both sides of the aisle and is critical to addressing the future water resource needs of our nation, economy, communities, and environment in a cost-effective and sustainable manner.”
In addition, Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) made a statement on WRDA 2020, adding, “The Water Resources Development Act is our legislative commitment to investing in Corps projects that help to protect our communities from flooding events, restore our environment and ecosystems, and keep our nation’s competitiveness by investing in our ports and harbors. The projects considered in this legislation are truly from Sea to Shining Sea- from the Unalaska (Dutch Harbor) Project in Alaska, to the Yuba River Ecosystem Restoration in California, the Matagorda Ship Channel project in Texas, to the New York and New Jersey Anchorages. Through biennial enactment of WRDA legislation, the Congress has addressed local, regional, and national needs through authorization of new Corps projects, studies, and policies that benefit every corner of the nation; WRDA 2020 is no exception.”
Full bill text, a section-by-section, and a fact sheet can be found here, here, and here.
WRDA 2020 reflects months of good faith negotiations between the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It includes provisions to strengthen America’s competitive edge by investing in our ports, harbors and inland waterways; build more resilient communities; address affordability concerns for communities; unlock the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund; and ensure that the U.S. Army Corps carries out projects in an economically and environmentally responsible manner. In July 2020, DeFazio led the full House in passing H.R. 7575—the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s bipartisan WRDA bill—by voice vote.
Chair DeFazio’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below and can be viewed as delivered here. Chair Napolitano’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are also included below.
Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Today, is a great day! Today, the leadership of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is here to present to the House a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) for 2020.
This bill continues the tradition restarted by former Chairman Bill Shuster of considering a new, bipartisan WRDA each Congress. This will be the fourth consecutive WRDA since 2014. I am grateful for the partnership of Ranking Member Sam Graves, Subcommittee Chairwoman Grace Napolitano, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Bruce Westerman for their hard work in developing this critical legislation.
I would also like to recognize our Senate colleagues, Committee on Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso and Ranking Member Tom Carper for their collaboration on this legislation.
The bill under consideration today was developed in a bipartisan, bicameral manner, with input and ideas from both sides of the aisle. This legislation builds on the successes of H.R. 7575, which was passed out of the House, by voice vote, earlier this summer. This final agreement reflects the priorities of members from both chambers and from both sides of the aisle and is critical to addressing the future water resource needs of our nation, economy, communities, and environment in a cost-effective and sustainable manner.
S.1811 authorizes construction of all 46 Reports of the Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) that were studied and transmitted to Congress since the last WRDA was signed into law. This is a record number of Chief’s Reports, almost matching the number of authorized projects in WRDA 2016 and 2018 combined.
It also authorizes 27 new Corps feasibility studies and directs the Corps to expedite the completion of over 60 ongoing studies—all of which were submitted to the Corps by local sponsors willing to share the costs of these project studies.
I am also proud to announce that S.1811 contains provisions that I have worked to enact for nearly two decades on the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. It ensures the full utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund by unlocking critical funds collected from shippers for harbor maintenance that have sat idle in the Trust Fund for decades. When combined with the provision enacted earlier this summer in the CARES Act, WRDA 2020 is likely to provide between $3.5 billion and $4 billion annually in maintenance dredging funding—which the Corps has noted should address the complete backlog of maintenance dredging projects, for all sizes of ports, within 5 years.
Ensuring that the funds collected for harbor maintenance are used to maintain the safety and reliability of our nation’s ports is just common sense. Once this bill is enacted, it will be up to the incoming Biden administration and the Appropriations Committee to make sure these funds are utilized.
The legislation also directs the Secretary of the Army to equitably allocate harbor maintenance funds to pay for harbor operation and maintenance needs, while addressing the ongoing needs of the nation’s largest ports, its Great Lakes harbors, strategic seaports, and its emerging harbors. This is especially important to communities in my district along Oregon’s southwest coast, where the difference between life and death for our fisherpeople is in the conditions of our harbors, jetties, and breakwaters.
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 for ten years.
I am also proud that WRDA 2020 will be remembered as providing the strongest direction yet to the Corps on ensuring that future water resources development projects are both resilient to the challenges posed by climate change, as well as reflect the needs of economically-disadvantaged, minority, rural, and tribal communities.
S. 1811 recognizes the important role of resiliency in helping communities meet the current and future challenges of changing hydrologic conditions and repetitive and more frequent flooding events. Provisions in this bill will ensure taxpayer dollars are spent on robust infrastructure that will contribute to the resiliency of communities across the country, and where appropriate, utilize natural- and nature-based features for providing long term, flooding and storm damage risk reduction.
In addition, 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. And this legislation, finally, directs the Corps to update its policies related to environmental justice to ensure that water resources development projects help to ameliorate disproportionate and adverse health and environmental impacts on low-income and minority communities and Indian tribes.
S. 1811 was developed through an inclusive process accommodating member requests from both chambers and from both sides of the aisle. It is truly a bipartisan product.
I would like to recognize a few individual members of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for their valuable contributions to this bill.
First, I recognize the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee, Grace F. Napolitano, for her dogged support for addressing the maintenance needs of our nation’s largest ports and for meeting the future water supply needs of the arid regions of this nation. Chairwoman Napolitano has been a tireless advocate for meeting the water resources needs of her district, her State, and of the nation, and was critical in bringing this bill before us today.
I would also like thank the Ranking Member of the Committee, the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Graves). I could not have asked for a better partner in working with the other body to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor.
I would also like to commend the Subcommittee Ranking Member, the gentleman from Arkansas (Mr. Westerman) for his steadfast support and wise input into the final WRDA bill. Today’s success, and many of the critical policy provisions in this bill, would not have been possible without him.
I also recognize the many talented new Democratic members this Congress, including Representatives Mucarsell-Powell (FL), Finkenauer (IA), Rouda (CA), Lamb (PA), Craig (MN), Pappas (NH), Delgado (NY), Fletcher (TX), Stanton (AZ), and Davids (KS)— all were instrumental in bringing important issues before the Committee and contributed to the formulation of the WRDA 2020 legislation.
I guess my only criticism of WRDA 2020 is what’s missing. There were a number of issues that we had hoped would be included in this final bill, but we could not reach agreement and they were ultimately not included. Chief among these was language to reauthorize and increase funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, as recommended in legislation approved by voice vote in our Committee over a year ago. This remains a critical issue for communities of all sizes and throughout the nation, who are facing critical wastewater infrastructure needs. This will be a high priority of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee in the next Congress, and it is my hope that we can finally get that reauthorization to the next President’s desk.
Mr. Speaker, the Water Resources Development Act is essential to communities throughout the country that depend on the efficient, safe, and affordable use of 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.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of S. 1811, the Water Resources Development Act of 2020. Today’s vote is on the bipartisan, bicameral WRDA agreement by House and Senate Committee leaders. I want to particularly thank Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, Subcommittee Ranking Member Westerman and the Members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for their important work over the past 2 years on this bill.
The Water Resources Development Act is our legislative commitment to investing in Corps projects that help to protect our communities from flooding events, restore our environment and ecosystems, and keep our nation’s competitiveness by investing in our ports and harbors.
The projects considered in this legislation are truly from Sea to Shining Sea- from the Unalaska (Dutch Harbor) Project in Alaska, to the Yuba River Ecosystem Restoration in California, the Matagorda Ship Channel project in Texas, to the New York and New Jersey Anchorages.
Through biennial enactment of WRDA legislation, the Congress has addressed local, regional, and national needs through authorization of new Corps projects, studies, and policies that benefit every corner of the nation. WRDA 2020 is no exception.
I would particularly like to recognize Chairman DeFazio for his continued efforts to unlock the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and his partnership in ensuring that all ports receive the tools they need in the future.
My region is home to the largest ports in the nation, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach. These ports handle over 40% of the exports and imports into the United States. Los Angeles and Long Beach have invested billions of dollars of their own money to upgrade their infrastructure for the benefit of the entire nation. But the success of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are only as strong as their partnership with the federal government.
As part of this legislation, donor ports like the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will benefit from a greater share of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. Expanded in-water uses that are crucial to the navigation of the federal channel are now eligible. Seismic impacts will also be considered as part of the benefit-cost ratio for navigation projects.
I am also proud of the provisions in WRDA that look to study water supply as a primary purpose of the Corps. We in the West are in a continuous fight against drought, and we have remarkable Corps reservoirs that were built for flood control but can be used more effectively for local water supply. The Corps is adapting to these local needs in the West, and this bill will give the Corps more ability and focus on addressing long-term water reliability of arid communities.
The bill also includes important assistance to socio-economically disadvantaged urban and rural areas by requiring the Corps to work more directly with local leaders and residents on Corps projects and provide positive impacts to these communities. This will build long-term resiliency for economic development, environmental and health improvements, and clean and safe water resource projects.
Lastly, this bill includes language necessary for my district and wildfire prone regions of the country to improve efforts by the Corps to remove unauthorized, human-made flammable equipment and materials from Corps property. This year there was an illegal fire on Corps property in my district that led to a major wildfire evacuating hundreds of residents and coming close to damaging property and harming our community. The language in this bill, in addition to efforts to increase Corps funding, will go a long way to helping the Corps remove these fire hazards.
I would like to thank the many people who have helped this bill become a reality. Subcommittee Vice Chair Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, for her leadership on WRDA and especially all things Florida.
Thank you to the leadership at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ASA James, General Spellmon, Retired General Semonite, Al Lee and the Senior Executive Service team, and Corps Counsel. I would especially like to thank Corps Futures Team- David Wethington, Laura Powell, and Andrea Busch, for their time and partnership in answering our questions to the nearly 1100 submissions we received for WRDA 2020.
I am very fortunate to have some of the best water and port leaders in the country in my district and Southern California who provided valuable input for this bill, including Col. Julie Balten, Col. Aaron Barta and David Van Dorpe of the Los Angeles District, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, Los Angeles County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella, Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Port Director Gene Seroka, Long Beach Port Director Mario Cordero, Metropolitan Water District Board Chair Gloria Grey, and San Gabriel Basin Watermaster Tony Zampiello.
Madam Speaker, I would particularly like to thank the Subcommittee Ranking Member Bruce Westerman for his friendship and collegiality through the hearings, meetings and roundtables which led to this bipartisan accomplishment. And most importantly, I would like to thank the incredible water subcommittee staff, including Alexa Williams, Camille Touton, Navis Bermudez, Ryan Seiger, Victor Sarmiento, Jon Pawlow, and Ian Bennitt.
I urge my colleagues to support WRDA 2020!
I yield back.
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