Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing to examine the potential benefits of investing in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water infrastructure projects.
Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery:
“It is that time again when this committee begins the biennial process of crafting water resources legislation.
“As the chairman said, WRDA, The Water Resources Development Act, authorizes water resource projects and sets national policies for the Civil Works Program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“The Corps’ main mission areas of navigation, flood risk management, and ecosystem restoration support the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans and facilitates commerce throughout this country and internationally.
“As I noted in a previous hearing, 2.3 billion short tons of goods and commodities were transported over water in the U.S. in just one year.
“This is made possible by our nation’s ports and inland waterways system constructed and maintained by the Corps.
“According to the Corps’ own estimates, its flood risk management projects have prevented over $1 trillion in riverine and coastal flood damages, mostly within the last 35 years.
“These projects and activities, in addition to other important mission areas, are authorized and directed by Congress under WRDA.
“The most recent WRDA legislation enacted by Congress in 2020 included several provisions that are important to the country and my home state of West Virginia.
“Importantly, the legislation changed the cost-share for projects on the inland waterways system, included provisions to support the development of projects in rural and economically disadvantaged communities and provided assistance to non-federal sponsors on identifying flood risk management project deficiencies.
“I was also glad to secure an increase in authorization of $160 million for West Virginia’s two environmental infrastructure programs under the Corps, which help support drinking water and wastewater projects in the state.
“There is much more to do, however, and I look forward to working with the chairman and my colleagues on this committee to develop a WRDA bill.
“It is important that future WRDA legislation supports the development and delivery of water resources projects in communities that need them, while continuing to meet our national priorities.
“This is underscored by events such as the 2016 flood in West Virginia, which claimed 23 lives and destroyed over 1,000 homes.
“We are still waiting on initial funding for a comprehensive study by the Corps to assess existing flood protection gaps and inform future projects in the Kanawha River Basin where most of the damage in the 2016 flood occurred.
“While I fully intend to see that this study receives a new start, it will do little good if recommended projects are held up due to analyses that disregard the needs of certain communities.
“In that same vein, it is also important that Congress promote efficiencies in the Corps’ project delivery process to support its central missions.
“The Corps decision-making process is often perceived as a black box by non-federal sponsors without the requisite expertise or experience.
“This should change.
“The Congress should continue to encourage and enhance assistance on the part of the Corps to communities and non-federal sponsors.
“The people on the ground know what their water resources challenges are, and the experience and expertise of the hardworking men and women at the Corps can help inform them of paths forward to address those challenges.
“As we make these and other changes and other changes, however, it is important that Congress not be overly prescriptive.
“Our nation’s water resources are diverse and, as I said, communities know better about their unique needs than policymakers in Washington, D.C.
“So, we must preserve the important role of non-federal sponsors in the development and delivery of projects.
“In closing, let me reiterate my gratitude to our witnesses for being here today, and I thank Chairman Carper for holding this hearing.
“The missions of the Corps are more critical than ever, and the testimony we will hear today will inform this committee as it continues its integral role.
“Mr. Chairman, I would like to take a moment to introduce a friend of mine, but also a great West Virginian who is on our panel, before we begin.
“I’m really pleased to have with us today Robert McCoy from Sissonville, West Virginia.
“Robert and I have known each other for several years. He’s the President and CEO of Amherst Madison, which employs over 350 people, and they are a marine transportation construction and repair business. They have been in business since 1893.
“Robert is a father of two—a daughter who is at the University of Charleston, and a 14-year old son.
“Robert went to West Virginia University and was born in Matewan, and we are really happy, Robert, that you’re here.
“Welcome, Robert. And to all the other witnesses, thank you.”
# # #