Opening Statement of Senator James Inhofe

Senate Environment and Public Works Full Committee hearing

 Midwest Floods: What Happened and What Might be Improved for Managing Risk and Responses in the Future

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

 Thank you, Chairman Boxer.  I’d like to welcome our colleagues who are here today to give us their observations on the impacts of the flooding and what their communities might now need.  Also, welcome to Secretary Woodley and General Walsh, who will provide us with specific details on the emergency preparedness and response activities of the Corps of Engineers and whether their efforts were at all hampered by existing authorities, as well as the impacts of the flooding across all Corps mission areas.           

The Corps of Engineers can play a critical role during excessive rain events.  Last year, my home state of Oklahoma experienced record-breaking floods, but the Corps was right there to help lessen the impacts.  The Tulsa District did an excellent job of, in particular, managing water levels at the reservoirs in order to prevent hundreds of millions of dollars in additional damages.  Unfortunately, these floods caused a fair amount of damage at our recreation areas, leading to reduced services this year.  Heavy rains again this year in the region have had impacts for the navigation industry as well.            

 The flooded region today’s hearing is focused on is facing a similarly broad range of water resources issues.  It is not simply a question of whether the levees performed as intended and if so, whether we need more or larger levees or if not, why not.  The questions we need to discuss involve how to balance all the needs and benefits of the Mississippi River and its tributaries.   

These waterways are used for navigation, recreation, hydropower, fish and wildlife habitat, and other water resources needs.  Sometimes these uses seem to be in conflict with one another.  It is our job as policymakers to provide the technical experts at the Corps of Engineers with enough guidance and the proper tools to promote the national interest in the use of the waterways.  Today we get a chance to hear a status update on this particular flooding incident, as well as any recommendations for future improvements.  ###