July 15, 2020

Chairs DeFazio, Napolitano Opening Remarks from WRDA Markup

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) during today’s markup of the Water Resources Development Act of 2020.

Chair DeFazio:

On Monday, I was joined by Ranking Member Graves, Subcommittee Chairwoman Napolitano, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Westerman in introducing the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, the authorizing bill for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  I am pleased to continue with T&I tradition, as this bill marks the fourth consecutive bipartisan WRDA since 2014.

The bill under consideration today was developed in a bipartisan manner, with input and ideas from both sides of the aisle.  Unlike any other WRDA of the past, this bill had an added challenge of being drafted and negotiated virtually.  Overcoming this challenge only underscores the important nature of this bill and the longstanding commitment by Congress to invest in the nation’s water infrastructure.

H.R. 7575 includes projects and policy provisions that impact communities across the nation.  It authorizes construction of 34 projects studied and approved by the Chief of Engineers since WRDA 2018 was signed into law, which is five times more than approved in WRDA 2018. 

It also authorizes 35 new Corps of Engineers feasibility studies and directs the Corps to expedite the completion of 41 ongoing studies – all of which were submitted to the Corps by local sponsors willing to share the costs of these project studies.

H.R. 7575 continues our work to ensure the full utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund by unlocking the nearly $10 billion dollars in previously collected funds that currently sit idle in the Trust Fund.  I will not stop fighting until all the funds collected from shippers are used for their intended purpose – maintaining the safety and reliability of our nation’s ports. 

The legislation also directs the Secretary of the Army to equitably allocate harbor maintenance expenditures to pay for harbor operation and maintenance needs, while addressing the ongoing needs of the nation’s largest ports, its Great Lakes harbors, and its emerging harbors. 

This bill also recognizes the important role that the inland waterways play in our nation and provides a cost share shift to help in completing construction of much needed inland projects, and prioritized projects of importance to members of the Committee.  I thank Rep. Conor Lamb for his tireless efforts for the Inland system.

Finally, this bill recognizes the important role of resiliency in helping our communities meet the current and future challenges of changing hydrologic conditions and repetitive and more frequent flooding events. I am glad to include provisions in this bill that will ensure taxpayer dollars are spent on infrastructure that will be resilient and will contribute to the resiliency of communities across the country.

WRDA 2020 also includes specific policies that focus on climate change, natural infrastructure solutions, affordability, and provisions that assist minority, tribal, and rural communities.  This legislation ensures that all communities, especially communities with socio-economic challenges, have a path forward in getting the tools they need for flood protection and ecosystem restoration.

The Water Resources Development Act is essential to communities throughout the country that depend on the efficient, safe, and affordable usage of their ports, harbors and inland waterways. 

Our economy, our safety, and our environment will benefit from the passage of WRDA 2020. I am proud of our work on this bill, and I urge my colleagues to join me in support of this important legislation.

Chair Napolitano:

Good Morning. I am pleased to join Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Bruce Westerman in introducing and moving the Water Resources Development Act of 2020.

The Water Resources Development Act is our legislative commitment to investing in Corps projects that help to protect our communities from flooding events, restore our environment and ecosystems, and keep our nation’s competitiveness by investing in our ports and harbors. 

The projects considered in this legislation are truly from Sea to Shining Sea- from the Unalaska (Dutch Harbor) Project in Alaska, to the Yuba River Ecosystem Restoration in California, the Matagorda Ship Channel project in Texas, to the New York and New Jersey Anchorages.

Through the biennial enactment of WRDA legislation, this Committee has addressed local, regional, and national needs through authorization of new Corps projects, studies, and policies that benefit every corner of the nation. WRDA 2020 is no exception.

I would also like to thank Chairman DeFazio for his continued efforts to unlock the Harbor Maintenance Trust and his partnership in ensuring that all ports receive the tools they need in the future. 

My region is home to the largest ports in the nation, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach.  These ports handle over 40% of the exports and imports into the United States. Los Angeles and Long Beach have invested billions of dollars of their own money to upgrade their infrastructure for the benefit of the entire nation.  But the success of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are only as strong as their partnership with the federal government.

As part of this legislation, ports like the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach will benefit from a greater share of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.  Expanded in-water uses that are crucial to the navigation of the federal channel are now eligible.  Seismic impacts will also be considered as part of the benefit-cost ratio for navigation projects. 

Finally, I am proud of the provisions in WRDA that look to study water supply as a primary purpose of the Corps and provide the Corps new tools to build a more resilient future for our communities. I am especially proud of the provisions that provide different levels of assistance to socio-economically disadvantaged rural and urban communities that need it the most. 

I would like to thank the many people who have helped this bill become a reality.  This includes the colleagues on the other side of the aisle and their dedicated staff.  I would also like to recognize subcommittee Vice Chair, Debbie Mucarsel Powell for her leadership on all things Florida. Thank you also to the leadership at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ASA James, General Semonite, General Spellmon, Al Lee and the Senior Executive Service team, and Corps Counsel. I would especially like to thank Corps Futures Team- David Wethington, Laura Powell, and Andrea Busch, for their time and partnership in answering our questions to the nearly 1100 submissions we received for WRDA 2020.

I am proud of the work we have done today, and the work that still needs to be done in enacting this legislation into law. I ask for your support in making this a reality.

Thank you.