WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled, “Perspectives on Ecosystem Restoration Projects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

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

“Thank you, Chairman Carper, for calling today’s hearing.

“Since 2014, the Committee has kept to a biennial WRDA schedule, authorizing water resources projects and setting national policies for the Civil Works Program as the chairman was saying.

“I look forward to continuing this track record next year. It does seem like déjà vu all over again. We just did this.

“The EPW Committee also plays an important role overseeing how the Corps’ executes those authorities and funding provided by the Congress.

“Today’s hearing focuses on one of the Corps’ main mission areas: aquatic ecosystem restoration.

“This hearing will allow us to learn more about the successes and challenges of three of the Corps’ aquatic ecosystem restoration projects. 

“I would like to extend my appreciation for our witnesses here today.

“I look forward to hearing your perspectives on these matters.

“Lessons learned from completed and ongoing projects are critical to informing what, if any, modifications are needed to the Corps’ existing authorities in future WRDA legislation.

“When designed appropriately, aquatic ecosystem restoration projects can play an important role in restoring critical habitats, while also mitigating loss of property and life.

“The scale of these projects varies greatly across the country and the Corps uses different authorities and programs to carry them out. 

“Large-scale projects are not the only option for protecting and restoring our aquatic ecosystems.

“Often, small projects or modifications to existing water resources infrastructure can yield positive outcomes to aquatic ecosystems, at a low cost.

“This flexibility is key to ensuring that the Corps’ design solutions are tailored to address the diverse aquatic ecosystem restorations of all communities.

“In my opinion, the three projects that are the focus of today’s hearing do a good job of underscoring all of these points.

“While the Corps’ aquatic ecosystem restoration efforts are important, the Corps and Congress must balance these efforts with the nation’s needs under the two main missions of the Corps: navigation, and flood and coastal storm risk management.

“As we will hear today, win-win solutions are possible.

“I am excited that Lorriane Riggin from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is here with us today.

“The South Carolina DNR partnered with the Corps in 2021 on the Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary in Mount Pleasant – a beautiful spot – South Carolina.

“This project was completed under the Corps’ Section 204 authority.

“This authority allows the Corps to carry out aquatic ecosystem restoration projects in connection with dredging at an existing navigation project.

“The federal costs of a project under this authority cannot exceed $10 million.

“For this particular project, the Corps, and its partners, utilized dredged materials from the Charleston Harbor deepening project for the replacement of the Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary.

“This project, like others, faced initial challenges.

“However, the Corps and the non-federal sponsor were able to adjust their game plan and find a solution that benefited shorebirds, without impeding on economic opportunities for the local community.

“Since the completion of the project, the small island has seen a return of shorebirds and seabirds.

“This project is an excellent example of how federal, local, state, and private groups can partner together to produce meaningful, lasting, results in an effective manner.

“I know Ms. Riggin will share even more about this project’s story in her testimony.

“Our witnesses’ project-specific stories will help us understand how we can balance our water resources needs, and maximize the use of taxpayer dollars.

“I look forward to also hearing about the challenges with, and suggested improvements to, existing authorities as we prepare for the next WRDA.

“Last month, as you mentioned, we held a hearing on the Army Corps’ Fiscal Year 2024 budget request and implementation of WRDA 2022 with Secretary Connor and Lieutenant General Spellmon. 

“It was evident at the hearing that each of our states face a diverse range of water resources issues and opportunities.

“I am hopeful that we can take the lessons learned from the projects discussed today, and use them to improve water resources projects of all types across the country.

“Chairman Carper, I look forward to continuing our partnership to develop the next bipartisan WRDA bill.

“Again, I express my gratitude to our witnesses.”

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