Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for holding this hearing. One of the Senate’s more important responsibilities is to offer advice and provide consent to the President’s nominations.
The nomination of William Ostendorff to serve on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is crucial, especially as the Commission continues to make important decisions regarding nuclear safety. Only last year, he was confirmed in the Senate by unanimous consent to serve the remainder of a term, and President Obama has re-nominated him to serve another full, five year term. Commissioner Ostendorff’s qualifications are stellar: In his 26-year career in the United States Navy, he was elevated to the rank of Captain, commanded a squadron of attack submarines, and served as the Director of the Math and Sciences Division of the U.S. Naval Academy. He also served as Counsel and Staff Director for the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces and as Principal Deputy Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
In his current role as Commissioner, Ostendorff contributes knowledge of reactor operations and nuclear security issues that is unmatched among his colleagues. His perspective is essential as the Commission works to unravel lessons learned from the Fukushima accident and concludes its review of the first new nuclear plant licenses in over 30 years. The public would be ill-served if politics impedes the confirmation of one of the Commission’s most distinguished members - and the only one with significant reactor operations and nuclear security experience.
We are also considering the nomination of Richard Howorth to serve on the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Mr. Howorth was Mayor of Oxford, Mississippi from 2001-2009. In this capacity, he served as chairman of the Oxford Electric Department, a municipal customer of TVA. He also served eight years as a director and officer of the North Mississippi Industrial Development Association, an economic development consortium made up of power association directors and mayors of cities in 29 Mississippi counties in the Tennessee Valley Authority service area.
Finally, we will hear from Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick who is nominated to be the Chief of Engineers/Commanding General for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. General Bostick has had a distinguished military career and is currently serving as Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army. Although nominations for this post are officially in the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee, I think it’s important that we hear from him given the importance of water resources issues to this Committee.
General Bostick’s nomination comes at a very challenging time - we have significant water resources needs across the country and the Corps is currently engaged in a historic flood fight along the Mississippi River. I commend the Corps for their work and I hope that the Committee will have an opportunity to learn more about the Corps’ efforts in the near future.
Additionally, in my home state of Oklahoma, there are many important water resources projects - from dredging the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River System to 12 feet to the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan - that should be priorities.
In previous fiscal years, the Arkansas Senators and I have requested funding to deepen the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System to a depth of 12 feet in Oklahoma consistent with the vast majority of the 445 mile long System. Currently the portion of the System in Oklahoma only provides a 9 foot depth. This funding would deepen the navigation channel to a depth of 12 feet consistent throughout the System as authorized by the FY2005 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act which also provided $7 million of operations and maintenance funds to begin work for the 12 foot channel. One billion dollars of trade transportation already reaches ports in Oklahoma through the McClellan-Kerr System. Barge traffic delivers $1.3 million per day in commerce to Oklahoma. Deepening this channel to 12 feet is not only consistent with the remainder of the System but will significantly enhance economic development and job creation in Oklahoma.
The Water Resources Development Act of 2007 authorized the Secretary of the Army to participate in the construction of features identified in the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan for flood risk management, ecosystem restoration, and recreation. Based on two independent economic analyses, local officials estimate that implementation of the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan would initially create several hundred jobs. Those estimates grow to creating nearly 10,000 new jobs after full construction under the Plan. Implementation of this plan is one of my major priorities.
Improving and investing in the nation’s water resources infrastructure fosters economic growth, creates jobs, and ensures Americans’ quality of life. Earlier this year, Chairman Boxer and I signaled our intent to draft and move a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). We understand the need for the Administration’s involvement in this process. General Bostick, I hope you will give us your commitment to work closely with the Committee on this critical piece of legislation.
Commissioner Ostendorff, Mr. Howorth, and General Bostick, I look forward to hearing from you.