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 on the Senate floor on the need for the Senate to pass America’s Water Infrastructure Act.
On May 22, 2018, the EPW Committee passed the legislation unanimously. America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 supports our nation’s economic competitiveness by increasing water storage, providing protection from dangerous floodwaters, deepening nationally significant ports, and maintaining the navigability of inland waterways across the country. The legislation cuts red tape, increases state and local stakeholder input for water infrastructure projects, and is fiscally responsible.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Over the past 50 years, our country has gone from a construction society to a consumption society – and as a result our bridges, roads, dams, and waterways have suffered.
“Now, President Trump has said that rebuilding America’s infrastructure is a priority for this administration.
“He’s said that we will build ‘with American heart, American hands, and American grit.’
“That’s what President Trump said in the State of the Union this year.
“Yesterday, the committee on Environment and Public Works took a big step toward meeting that goal.
“We voted to approve America’s Water Infrastructure Act.
“There’s a line people say in Wyoming – lots of people say it – around the Rocky Mountain West as well. It’s originally been attributed to Mark Twain.
“And it goes like this, ‘Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.’
“Well, surprisingly Mr. President, in this case, we actually didn’t have to fight over the water of the United States Senate.
“This legislation was written by Republicans and Democrats, and it passed with unanimous, bipartisan support, 21 to nothing.
“Both parties agreed that there’s a lot we can do to improve America’s water infrastructure.
“Basically, this bill comes down to three big things.
“It grows the economy and creates jobs.
“It cuts red tape by getting more control out of Washington.
“And it keeps communities safe.
“The first way this legislation supports America’s economy is by increasing water storage.
“Now, that’s a big concern in my home state of Wyoming, and across the West.
“We’ve had a serious problem over the years where sediment builds up behind dams in the lakes where water is stored.
“That sediment limits the amount of water that the lakes can actually hold.
“So we’re telling the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies to develop plans to deal with this sediment at federal reservoirs.
“That’s a simple thing that Washington can do – and now it’s going to get done.
“We’re also expanding water storage capacity by making it easier to get permits for additional reservoirs.
“We have a facility in Lincoln County, Wyoming that’s called the Fontenelle Reservoir.
“We’ve been trying to expand the water storage at the reservoir for years.
“This legislation makes sure that the expansion will finally occur.
“Farmers, and ranchers, and communities nearby will get a new, reliable supply of the water they need.
“Now, of course, the water doesn’t do much good if people can’t get it where they need it.
“So we fix the failing irrigation systems that are so important in rural areas.
“We’re also improving America’s inland waterways that people rely on to move products to market.
“On the coasts, we deepen some of our most vital ports, and we can ship goods around the world.
“Mr. President, the Pro-growth policies like the tax cuts we passed last year have helped America’s economy take off.
“Now we need to make sure that we have the water infrastructure in place to keep it growing, to keep people working, and to keep American raw materials and American-made products moving.
“The second thing this legislation does is to cut some of the burdensome and unnecessary red tape that does nothing but get in the way of the economic progress that we need.
“We’re going to make sure that these water projects reflect the priorities of the American people, not the priorities of Washington bureaucrats.
“That means more local control over which projects get built.
“Local leaders know what they need – and they know which projects will make the biggest difference.
“Once we identify the best projects, then we need to make sure they actually get built.
“Today the permitting process can drag on for years, while people get more and more desperate for projects to be finished.
“America’s Water Infrastructure Act is going to push the Army Corps of Engineers to complete their feasibility studies for new projects within less than two years.
“We also eliminate the need for multiple ‘benefit-cost-ratio assessments’ for a single project.
“These are expensive, and they take a lot of time.
“Often, the Army Corps of Engineers will require new assessments several times for a project.
“This legislation gets rid of these redundant studies.
“Once a project has one of these, it never needs to be reassessed by the Corps.
“That’s going to make a big difference in getting things built on time and on budget.
“The third big thing that this legislation does is to help keep American communities safe.
“We’re going to repair some of the old drinking water and waste water systems across the country.
“We provide help for places that need to clean up pollution in their water – and to keep pollution from getting into the water in the first place.
“As a doctor, Mr. President, I can tell you that this is extremely important for the health of our families and our communities.
“That’s why it’s a priority in this legislation.
“We also take some important steps to reduce floods in rural areas.
“In my state of Wyoming and other parts of the West, this is a continual threat for many people.
“Every spring they have to worry about floods caused by snow and ice melting.
“We have dams and levees where maintenance has been put off for so long that people are anxious every time the water starts to rise.
“So we’re addressing the backlog of maintenance.
“We’ll look for ways to permanently fix some of these areas where ice backs up along rivers and causes serious damage.
“Most people don’t give a lot of thought to the water that comes into their home.
“They turn on a faucet, water comes out, comes into the house, and water goes out of the house.
“This legislation makes sure that people don’t have to worry about that changing.
“Their water will be safe, reliable, and abundant – so they won’t have to worry about it.
“For those of us in the West, water is always on our minds.
“It’s vital to our way of life.
“We rely on irrigation and water storage for our livestock and our crops.
“We rely on water to transport our products to markets far away.
“We rely on dams and levees to protect us from floods.
“This legislation makes sure that people in rural communities can still count on the water being there when we need it.
“That’s good for all of us, Mr. President.
“Republicans and Democrats agree.
“We know that there’s a lot of work to be done to address America’s water infrastructure needs.
“We know we need to get the job done right.
“We need to get it done faster, better, cheaper, smarter.
“America’s Water Infrastructure Act does just that.
“This cooperative piece of legislation passed the committee 21 to nothing.
“Now it’s time for the entire senate to act.”