Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a hearing titled “Improving American Economic Competitiveness through Water Resources Infrastructure.”
The hearing featured testimony from Pat O’ Toole, president of the Family Farm Alliance; Jamey Sanders, vice president of Choctaw Transportation Company; and Derek Brockbank, American Shore and Beach Preservation Association.
For more information on witness testimony click here.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Today we will hold a hearing on improving American economic competitiveness through water resources infrastructure.
“Today’s hearing is the start of an important process to pass bipartisan water infrastructure legislation during the 116th Congress.
“We begin that process taking testimony from the stakeholders who are most impacted.
“The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has established a tradition of working in a bipartisan fashion when it comes to passing much-needed infrastructure legislation.
“Just before the August recess this committee unanimously passed the most substantive highway legislation in American history.
“America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 is a significant step in improving our nation’s roads and bridges.
“It will grow the economy, improve road safety, expedite important projects, and enhance the quality of life for all Americans.
“Roads and bridges are critical to our economy and our way of life.
“Water infrastructure is also critical. That’s why we’re here today.
“America’s water infrastructure helps move goods across the country, and prevent catastrophic floods and disasters.
“It provides clean and abundant water to millions of American communities, farms, ranches and small businesses.
“This is why we must continue the tradition of passing water resources legislation every two years.
“In 2018, this committee passed America’s Water Infrastructure Act.
“This bipartisan legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 99 to 1 – almost unheard of today - and it was signed into law by President Trump.
“America’s Water Infrastructure Act, when fully implemented by the Army Corps and EPA, will create new jobs, grow the economy, provide more water storage, protect lives and property, and cut red tape.
“The bill is also the most significant drinking water legislation in decades.
“However, work still needs to be done.
“This spring extreme rainfall and rapid snowmelt contributed to widespread flooding along the Missouri, Mississippi, and Arkansas Rivers.
“Pictures of flooded farm fields and destroyed Midwestern communities filled the news.
“America’s farmers suffered billions of dollars in damages.
“According to US Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, agricultural producers reported over 19.4 million acres of crops were not able to be planted in 2019, the highest level since the agency began releasing reports in 2007.
“In addition, arid Western states still grappled with water supply issues.
“For example, on July 17th of this year an irrigation tunnel collapsed near Fort Laramie, Wyoming affecting over 100,000 acres of farmland between Wyoming and Nebraska.
“This tunnel collapse blocked a vital artery that provides water for numerous farming and ranching communities in Wyoming and in Nebraska.
“In some cases these irrigation systems are over 100 years old.
“More needs to be done to assess the health of these irrigation systems so we can avoid such collapses and widespread crop failures in the future.
“While the Army Corps does not own these systems, I believe the Army Corps can vital play a role in assessing the state of this aging infrastructure.
“In addition, water storage remains a serious concern for Western states, whose ranchers rely on water to grow alfalfa and raise cattle.
“Congress no longer authorizes the construction of giant water storage reservoirs due in large part to their high cost and the lengthy permitting process.
“However, working with the states, I believe we can help build smaller scale storage reservoirs, which can give relief to our ranching and farming communities.
“We must ensure our ranchers, farmers and communities get the water that they need.
“I look forward to working with the members of this committee on a bipartisan basis to enact new water infrastructure legislation in 2020.
“The process towards passing that bill begins today.”