July 10, 2019

Chairs DeFazio, Napolitano Statements from Hearing on Water Resources Development Acts

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 Resource and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) during today’s hearing titled: “Water Resources Development Acts: Status of Implementation And Assessing Future Needs.”

Chair DeFazio:

For nearly 200 years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has played a central role in addressing the Nation’s water resources needs for navigation, flood protection, ecosystem restoration, and other missions.  The Corps is crucial in managing our Nation’s infrastructure, operating nearly 2,200 levee systems and 700 dams across the US, and is the largest producer of hydropower in the country.

Yet, the first step in any Corps project or activity comes through authorization in a water resources development act (or WRDA). Regular enactment of WRDAs provides this Committee with the opportunity to oversee the Corps’ implementation of projects and to ensure that the Corps remains responsive to national, regional, and local priorities, as well as a to a changing climate. It is for this reason that the Committee intends to develop and approve a WRDA 2020 bill next year.

Today, we will also examine whether the Corps is implementing prior Water Resources Development Acts as Congress intended.  This means issuing implementation guidance in a timely manner and including in their budget requests and work plans necessary funding of authorized Corps projects.

I want to reiterate the need for the administration to request funding for authorized projects.  Not funding authorized projects leaves the Corps with only two options – slow projects down or carry out fewer projects.  Both options are unacceptable.  Shortchanging the Corps impacts their ability to carry out its missions, implement congressional directives, and operate in a timely fashion.

You can be sure I will continue to work to enact the next WRDA and to build on the successes of the last two Congresses in the full utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.  My bill was passed out of Committee by voice vote last month and awaits consideration by the Full House.  H.R. 2440 honors our long-term commitment to U.S. shippers and taxpayers by using the Trust Fund proceeds for their intended purposes. Through this legislation, approximately $34 billion in harbor maintenance taxes will be available over the next decade to maintain our harbors and ports. 

Rising tides raise all ships- and enactment of this legislation will pave the way for further adjustments in WRDA to ensure all our nation’s ports – large and small – are maintained to their appropriate widths and depths and that the unique needs of all our harbors, including our largest ports, can be addressed.

Secretary James and General Spellmon, thank you for being here today.  I look forward to working with you to provide much needed assistance to our communities in maintaining our Nation’s ports, harbors, and environment.

Let’s implement WRDA 2018, fund these important projects and studies, and move forward to WRDA 2020.

Chair DeFazio remarks as delivered can be found here.

Chair Napolitano:

The Army Corps of Engineers is – simply put – the nation’s premiere water resources expert for our Nation. 

Congress has vested significant responsibility in the Corps to carry out vital navigation, flood control, and ecosystem restoration projects for the benefit of our communities and our nation.  Each of these projects has been thoroughly studied by the Corps and authorized by Congress through biennial water resources development acts.

This Committee, on a bipartisan basis, has traditionally worked to move a water resources development act every two years, and has successfully enacted three consecutive Water Resources Development Acts since 2014.  Through these WRDAs, this Committee seeks to address local, regional, and national needs through authorization of new Corps projects, studies, and policies that benefit every corner of the nation.

The Corps implementation of the Water Resources Development Acts, particularly WRDA 2018, is important for us to understand.  We want to know that the Corps implements the law as Congress intended, and ensure that the Corps remains responsive to national, regional, and local priorities and to a changing climate.

I am specifically interested in WRDA provisions that involve the National Dam Safety Program, nature-based infrastructure initiatives, using data to enhance operations at our reservoirs, and the Corps’ assessment of their authorized project backlog.

For my district, I am very interested in ensuring that vital dam safety work at Whittier Narrows Dam is completed expeditiously, as well as ensuring the Corps’ has the tools and funding it needs to ensure a reliable source of water for the drought prone areas in the west. 

Staying on a two-year schedule for enacting a new WRDA is critical to water infrastructure to the nation, and today’s hearing starts the process for the development of a 2020 WRDA.

But Congress is only half of the equation. We must have a partner in the Corps and this administration in requesting funding for Congressionally-authorized projects and studies. When the administration includes the words “NO NEW START” in a budget request, what that means is a NO to infrastructure. 

Secretary James and General Spellmon, thank you for being here today. I would also like to thank the South Pacific Region and the LA District of the Corps for their work and partnership throughout the years. I would also like to welcome our stakeholder panel for their participation in today’s hearing.

I look forward to working with you all in the development of a 2020 WRDA, and in your testimony today. 

Chair Napolitano’s remarks as delivered can be found here.