(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Today’s hearing will examine proposals for maintaining our ports, keeping our waterways open for commerce, protecting our citizens from storms and floods, and restoring our most precious ecosystems.
This is the second hearing held by the EPW Committee as we continue to develop the next Water Resources Development Act. The projects included in WRDA are vitally important to keeping our communities safe and our economy moving.
Prior to 2007, WRDA had not been passed in seven years, but we built overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate to enact the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 over President Bush’s veto. That bill allowed many critical projects across the country to proceed.
I look forward to working with Senator Inhofe and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop the next Water Resources Development Act.
The projects, policies, and programs authorized in WRDA are essential components of creating jobs and keeping our economy growing.
For example, today we will hear about proposals to increase investment in our nation’s ports and inland waterway navigation channels. Ensuring our port and inland waterway infrastructure is adequately maintained is absolutely critical to the nation’s economic success. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, in 2008, U.S. ports handled over $1.6 trillion in commerce and U.S. ports and waterways moved nearly 2.5 billion tons of cargo.
Maintaining our ports is especially important in my home state of California. The ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland are among the top ten ports in the nation by the amount of container cargo shipped. These and many other important California ports support economic activity representing hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions dollars.
Past WRDA bills have authorized projects to build and maintain ports across the country. Now we must ensure that we invest in these projects so that our ports are properly maintained and can continue to support the billions of dollars of commerce and thousands of jobs that depend on them.
A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation to ensure revenues collected for harbor maintenance activities are invested in our ports. I support these efforts and believe increasing investment in harbor maintenance should be a focus of the next WRDA bill.
Our witnesses today will also discuss steps we can take to improve the safety of the nation’s thousands of miles of levees.
As we write the next WRDA bill, improving the nation’s levees will be one of our top priorities. In California, many communities such as Sacramento face considerable flood risk and rely on their levees for protection. WRDA is needed to allow critical enhancements to the levees surrounding Sacramento’s Natomas basin to move forward.
In WRDA 2007, we established a National Committee on Levee Safety and directed that Committee to develop recommendations for a national levee safety program. The Committee’s recommendations called for comprehensive and consistent national leadership on levee safety, strong levee safety programs in all states, and alignment of existing Federal programs. These are important goals that the next WRDA bill can help to achieve.
Investment in the nation’s water resources creates jobs and provides benefits to American families and businesses every day.
Moving forward on a Water Resources Development Act would provide the opportunity to advance important projects and programs, create jobs, and promote long-term prosperity.
# # #