Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled, “WRDA 2024: Stakeholder Feedback on USACE Project Partnership Agreements.”

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as delivered.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and you're right. We do and have a great track record of working together on WRDA and we're going to continue that as we move into the next year.

“So, I welcome our witnesses. In my short conversation with Mr. Hague, I particularly welcome my fellow West Virginian…you need to hear this. He's from Charleston, West Virginia, and is a proud graduate of Capital High School. So thank you for coming and being a part of this as all of you, but special shout out to my West Virginian…

“Since 2014, we have kept to a biennial schedule of passing bipartisan legislation that authorizes water resources studies and projects.

“WRDA also sets national policies for the Civil Works Program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“I look forward to continuing this track record next year.

“This summer, Chairman Carper and I…sent a letter to our Senate colleagues soliciting their requests for WRDA 2024.

“I appreciate the efforts of our Senate colleagues to submit their proposals for our consideration.

“I am pleased to say we received a significant number of requests, more than the last time, which demonstrates the strong interest in and necessity of this legislation.  

“I have said previously it is important any WRDA bill supports the timely and efficient delivery of water resources projects, while continuing to meet national priorities.

“Flexibility is key to ensuring that the Corps can identify and carry out solutions that are tailored to address the needs and individual needs of our communiies.

“Our nation’s water resources challenges are diverse, and communities know more about their unique needs than policymakers in Washington.

“We must also continue to preserve the role of non-federal sponsors in the project delivery process and maintain the Corps’ focus on its primary mission areas: navigation, flood and coastal storm risk management, and ecosystem restoration.

“Insight from our non-federal sponsors on their experiences with completed and ongoing projects helps inform what, if any, modifications are needed to the Corps’ authorities.

“Today, we will discuss…project partnership agreements, PPAs.

“In general, PPAs are legal documents between the Corps and a non-federal sponsor for construction of an authorized water resources project. 

“These agreements describe the project and the responsibilities of each party.  

“The Corps has undertaken efforts to simplify the process for executing PPAs by standardizing model agreements and issuing guidance for certain types of projects.

“The Corps also considers deviations from the model agreements on a case-by-case basis.

“However, federal law requires certain provisions to be included in the PPAs, limiting what modifications the Corps is able to consider in some instances.

“One of those statutorily required provisions is known as the ‘hold and save clause.’

“This provision, mandated by WRDA 1986, requires non-federal sponsors to hold and save the United States free from damages due to the construction or operation and maintenance of the project, except for damages due to fault or negligence.

“PPAs also describe the operation, maintenance, repair, replacement and rehabilitation, or O&M, responsibility of the federal government and non-federal sponsors.

“O&M responsibilities vary with project purpose.

“For certain projects, the non-federal sponsor will be responsible for O&M activities in perpetuity, regardless of the useful life of the project.

“Some stakeholders have indicated that certain required language in PPAs can delay the execution of these agreements.

“A delay can extend the construction timeline for a project, and potentially and probably would lead to increased costs.

“This hearing will provide us an opportunity to learn more about these concerns and listen to proposed solutions.

“It will also highlight how non-federal sponsors have successfully negotiated PPAs with the Corps.

“As we have this discussion today, it is important to remember that these projects require significant federal investment in order to be realized. 

“Ultimately, we must ensure that any changes to PPAs appropriately balance each parties’ risks.

“I want to thank our witnesses today for sharing their perspectives on this topic.

“I would say anecdotally, in discussing the topic of our hearing today, somebody said it's in the weeds. You know, it's very wonkish as to what we're talking about and how this is going to finally shake out in our WRDA bill.

“But I would say as we look at the map of the United States, every project that's done, whether it's done through a PPA or not, is absolutely essential to the safety and the environmental prosperity of every part of our country.

“So if the weeds aren't right, the projects aren't going to be right and the results are not going to be right. So I think that highlights how important a hearing like this is today, and I thank the witnesses for coming. Thank you.”

# # #