WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, welcomed two Delawareans to testify at the committee’s first policy hearing in the 115th Congress, which focused on modernizing our nation’s infrastructure. Tony Pratt serves as Administrator of the Shoreline and Waterway Management Section within the Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and Shailen Bhatt formerly served as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation and is now the Executive Director of Colorado’s Department of Transportation.
The two witnesses discussed the importance of making smart investments to better maintain our existing infrastructure and to protect and spur economic growth in our coastal communities.
“It always gives me great joy to bring Delaware to D.C., and I’m so pleased to have both Tony and Shailen at our committee’s first policy hearing of the 115th Congress. Tony and Shailen are great spokesmen for the importance of making smart investments in our infrastructure, both man-made and natural, and we are lucky to have them here today to share their experiences and expertise. States across the country, including Delaware, are finding innovative ways to address their unique infrastructure challenges, and we need to find out what’s working best and do more of that. My colleagues can learn from some of the smart solutions that both Tony and Shailen have been instrumental in executing in the First State, and I’m confident that with the help of leaders like them, we can find consensus on this issue across the aisle in the year ahead.”
Bhatt, who served as Delaware’s Transportation Secretary during Hurricane Sandy, stressed the need to make intelligent, proactive investments in order to prevent unnecessary devastation later on. He cited the example of building the new Indian River Inlet Bridge in Sussex County to replace the outdated bridge originally constructed back in 1965. He explained that, when Hurricane Sandy made landfall in Delaware in 2012, the newly-constructed bridge was able to withstand the historic storm, while the old bridge washed out to sea.
While many people often think of infrastructures as roads, highways and bridges, Pratt noted that our natural infrastructure is just as critical to the American economy. In his testimony before the committee, Pratt highlighted the unique challenges that coastal states like Delaware face. Investments in our beaches, dunes and wetlands help protect man-made infrastructure like the Indian River Inlet Bridge, create jobs and support tourism and recreational activities. Pratt specifically highlighted shore infrastructure projects at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Rehoboth Beach as examples of the economic and environmental benefits that directly result from federal investment in beach protection.
The full bios of both witnesses can be found below:
Tony Pratt is the Administrator of the Shoreline and Waterway Management Section within the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control where he oversees programs related to beach nourishment, beach construction regulation, coastal hazards mitigation, waterway management, and flood mitigation. He was a member of the National Research Council Committee on Beach Nourishment and Protection, and the Heinz Center Panel on Risk Vulnerability and the True Costs of Coastal Hazards. He served elected office in Lewes, a coastal town in Delaware, four years of which were as Deputy Mayor. He currently serves on the Advisory Board to the Department of Homeland Security Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence based at UNC, Chapel Hill.
Shailen P. Bhatt
Shailen Bhatt serves as the Executive Director for the Colorado Department of Transportation. Prior to this appointment, Bhatt served as the Cabinet Secretary for the Delaware Department of Transportation. He was also responsible for the Delaware Transit Corporation and the DMV. Bhatt also previously served as an Associate Administrator at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). He currently is a member of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Board of Directors and serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE). Bhatt graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Western Kentucky University.