Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that you have allowed me to participate in today's hearing. While I am not a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, the content of this afternoon's hearing is of great interest to me. I am especially interested to learn more about water supply infrastructure and the roll of the Corps of Engineers in providing such projects to communities who are struggling to build adequate water systems. As the Committee moves forward with the Water Resources Development Act of 2004, I look forward to working with you and my colleagues on the Committee.
The mission of the Corps is, in part, to provide quality, responsive engineering services to the nation. Such services include planning, designing, building and operating water resources and other civil works projects and providing design and construction management support for other federal agencies. I find this mission compelling, especially given the historical needs of the arid West, whose cities are desperate to find safe, clean and abundant sources of water. In Colorado, Corps projects have provided both opportunity and promise, as well as sound environmental stewardship in some of the most sensitive ecosystems in the country.
As you are aware, I have been recently working with the Corps of Engineers on a project known as the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which is a pipeline that will provide the small, financially strapped towns and water agencies along the lower Arkansas River in Colorado with safe, clean, affordable water.
Projects like the conduit are familiar to the Corps, which first got involved in water supply in the 1850s, when it built the aqueduct that still serves Washington, DC, and some of its suburbs in Northern Virginia. Today, it continues to operate the aqueduct and the two water purification plants it feeds; the water then flows into local systems. Cities and industries across the nation tap into Corps reservoirs to meet municipal and industrial water supply needs; and today the Corps' reservoirs supply water to nearly 10 million people in 115 cities. In the drier parts of the Nation, water from Corps reservoirs is also used for agriculture.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit, which was first authorized by Congress in 1962, will deliver fresh, clean water to dozens of valley communities and thousands of people along the river. To be exact, the Conduit will supply 16 cities and 25 water agencies in Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Prowers, Pueblo and Otero counties, with water when completed. In short, the Conduit will serve a geographic area slightly larger than the state of New Hampshire with desperately needed clean water.
I believe the Corps is an organization committed to its mission. It is extremely important that the Water Resources Development Act move forward with expediency and that the members of this committee, through the WRDA authorization, will continue to allow the Corps an opportunity to build upon its legacy of constructing critical components of our national water infrastructure and water supply systems.
There are several other projects that I look forward to working on with the Committee and the Corps. I have submitted these projects to the Committee and look forward to discussing them with you all in the near future. But for now, I hope my colleagues as well as the Army Corps of Engineers will leave this committee hearing today with a keen understanding of the importance that the Corps' water supply legacy, a legacy dating to the 1850s, will mean to me as the bill moves forward.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.