STATEMENT BY CHAIRMAN WARNER
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
HEARING ON THE 1998 WATER RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT ACT
JUNE 23, 1998

Good morning. I would like to welcome Secretary Westphal to the Committee this morning as the new Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. We are pleased that you have been confirmed for this challenging position and look forward to working with you. The Committee also welcomes our other witnesses -- many of whom have traveled far to join us this morning.

Today, the purpose of the hearing is to examine the Administration's proposal to reauthorize the civil works activities for the Corps of Engineers.

It has been the Committee's practice since the landmark Water Resources bill of 1986 to enact a Water Resources Development Act on a consistent two year cycle. Today, I renew our commitment to this process.

A predictable reauthorization process ensures that our Nation's water resource infrastructure is constructed and maintained in a timely and efficient manner. This process allows the Army Corps of Engineers to continue to "cost share" project costs with local sponsors.

In return, citizens have received significant protection from flooding and coastal storms. We have maintained our competitive edge in a "one-world" economic market through the construction and maintenance at our Nation's ports and waterways.

While some may question the economic benefits to the taxpayer from investments in these local activities, there is ample evidence to confirm that these projects are in the national interest.

In 1997 alone, Corps flood control projects prevented approximately $45.2 billion in damages. The Corps continues to support our Nation's commercial navigation through deepening and maintaining our Nation's waterways. The value of the commerce on these waterways totaled over $600 billion in 1996, generating 15.9 million jobs.

The national interest in water resource development is clear. We are concerned, however, about the Administration's declining budget requests for the Corps civil works activities. There is a growing disparity between the number of projects which have been fully analyzed by the Corps, received Chief's Reports and authorized by this Committee compared to the projects funded through the annual Appropriations process.

For example, the Water Resources Development Act of 1996, authorized approximately 250 projects for construction. However, less than 50% -- 123 projects -- have actually received any funding to begin,

In addition, the President's FY 1999 construction budget request of $784 billion represents a significant reduction from the current fiscal year construction funding of $1.47 billion. Certainly, this budget request cannot support the work being recommended by the Chief of Engineers and again the Congress will need to supplement the Administration's request. The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill, passed last week, contains $1.2 billion for construction activities for next fiscal year.

I remain committed to the cost-sharing principles established in the WRDA '86 which call on local sponsors to be full partners in the development of projects. It is my intent to proceed with project authorizations that adhere to these principles. They have been successful in leveraging non-Federal funds and have ensured that only those projects with the strongest local support move forward.

The Committee will hear from several witnesses today about the Administration's proposal concerning shore protection projects. I will carefully study this proposal and hope that should the Committee concur with this approach that the Administration will begin to budget for these vitally needed projects.

It is disconcerting that the Administration has not implemented the provisions of the 1996 Water Resources bill which directed the Secretary to recommend shore protection authorizations to Congress and to renew budgeting for of these authorized projects. While I welcome the opportunity to resolve this longstanding issue with the Administration regarding federal support of on-going and new shore protection projects, I am concerned that the Administration is not firmly to maintaining a long term shore protection program.

Secretary Westphal, I hope that we can begin to make progress on this serious issue.

In closing, I would like to reiterate my support for passage of a Water Resources Development Act of 1998. This vital legislation would ensure timely and efficient development and maintenance of our Nation's water resource infrastructure. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Committee to proceed with the development of legislation to mark-up in the very near future.