As Prepared for Delivery:
You heard me yesterday talk about the WRDA bill—and what happens if we don’t make this law this year. 29 Navigation, Flood Control, and Environmental Restoration projects will not happen. There will be no new Corps reforms to let local sponsors improve infrastructure at their own expense. There will be no FEMA assistance to states to rehabilitate unsafe dams. There will be no reforms to help communities address Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water infrastructure mandates. There will be no deal on Coal Ash permitting programs to protect coal utilities from citizen suits.
This bill gets us back on the regular schedule of passing a Water Resources Development Act every 2 years – so we can continue to modernize our water transportation infrastructure and keep up with flood protection and environmental restoration needs around the country, and continue to address needed reforms.
We have been reminded several times recently of the need for Corps projects.
We saw algae wash up on beaches in Florida this summer. The project that will fix Lake Okeechobee and prevent this problem in the future is in WRDA 2016. I don’t like Everglades projects generally, but Senator Rubio has convinced me that this project is critical for Florida’s economy.
This is a picture of the algae blooms caused by deteriorating water conditions. Not only are these blooms environmentally hazardous, but they’re also economically debilitating to communities living along South Florida’s “working coastline”. Communities along the coast depend on clean freshwater flows to drive tourism, but as these blooms spread along the coast, economic development is negatively impacted. If we don’t authorize the Central Everglades Planning Project, those communities will cease to exist.
We also saw historic flooding in Baton Rouge Louisiana. There are two ongoing Corps projects could have prevented much of the damages we saw last month. WRDA 2016 directs the Corps to expedite the completion of these projects.
We can no longer use a fix-as-it fails approach to America’s flood protection. It’s not just about economic losses communities face after a devastating flood. It’s about the loss of human life. Not acting is not an option.
Last year, there were several collisions in the Houston Ship Channel. Because of a design deficiency, the channel is too narrow and the Coast Guard has declared it to be a “precautionary zone.” Without this bill, the navigation safety project to correct this issue won’t move forward.
Corps of Engineers projects help generate $109.83 billion in net annual economic benefits and generate $34.16 billion in revenue to the U.S. Treasury.
Few understand the economic benefits associated with WRDA.
As I noted yesterday, expansion of the Panama Canal is complete, allowing a larger number of ships as well as bigger ships to call on America’s ports. By not passing this bill many important deepening projects for our nation’s ports will go unfunded, making it difficult for them to accommodate the new Post Panamax shipping vessels.
The importance of harbor deepening cannot be over stated. The deepening of ports can lead to lower shipping costs, as a higher quantity of larger freight from around the world may be accommodated Our infrastructure MUST be ready for this expected growth in order for the U.S. to remain globally competitive.
It is important to understand that WRDA also supports other economic benefits.
Investments in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure supports both public health and our economy. Unfortunately, we have neglected our drinking water infrastructure for years. The American Society of Civil Engineers rated America’s drinking water infrastructure a (D) Grade.
By investing in America’s crumbling drinking water infrastructure we will help protect the health of our citizens while ensuring a very good return on investment.
A recent study by the Water Environment Federation shows that for every million dollars of federal spending on drinking water and clean water infrastructure we get in $2.95 million in economic output for the U.S. economy. Due to their ripple effect through the economy, these investments will result in new Federal tax revenues nearly equal to the infrastructure investment.
This is why we need to pass WRDA now. What we have in front of us is a bill that helps protect the American people, has major economic benefits and helps us restore America’s ecosystem.