January 09, 2020

Chairs DeFazio, Napolitano Statements from Hearing on WRDA 2020 Proposals

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 hearing titled: “Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2020.”

Chair DeFazio:

While we may have disagreed on certain policy matters, during his tenure, I am proud to have worked with Chairman Shuster in returning this Committee to the tradition of moving a water resources development act every Congress. Since 2014, this Committee has been successful in enacting three consecutive, bipartisan WRDA bills, and today, we take another step in continuing that tradition for the 116th Congress. 

This Committee plans to consider a new WRDA for 2020 in the spring.  I have already spoken with Ranking Member Graves on the scope of this bill, and under your leadership, Madam Chair, and with the Subcommittee Ranking Member, Mr. Westerman, we will continue to make biennial consideration of WRDA legislation the regular order of this Committee. 

Enacting WRDAs on a predictable timeline is good for non-federal sponsors as they work with the Corps in developing projects. 

It provides strong oversight on the critical role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the management of our water resources. 

It also allows for Congress’ timely consideration of important water infrastructure projects across the nation. 

Biennial consideration of WRDAs also allows for Congress to continue to address lingering policy concerns with implementation of Corps’ projects.

I look forward to continuing this bipartisan tradition in 2020, and to providing funding to finally complete the work Congress has authorized.

For the past three Congresses, I have been working with Members on both sides of the aisle to finally unlock Federal investment in for our nation’s ports and harbors. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that ports are responsible for $4.6 trillion in economic activity – or more than 26% of the U.S. economy. Yet, as we have shown, over-and-over, we already collect more than enough revenues from shippers to address the backlog of maintenance needs for all Federal harbors – large and small.  We just need to find the political courage to spend it.

We should be investing more in our nation’s ports and harbors in order to keep America competitive in the global economy. 

One of my most rewarding accomplishments this Congress was overwhelming, bi-partisan passage by the whole House of my Full-Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund legislation. I will continue to look for opportunities to work with the other body to ensure that legislation is sent to the President for his signature this year.

In addition, I want to work with the Corps on how we ensure that the infrastructure we have today is ready for the challenges of the future. As we learned at our November 2019 hearing on “Promoting Resiliency of our Nation’ Water Resources Infrastructure,” recent years have shown the growing challenges our communities are facing in light of climate change.

Yet, that hearing also highlighted a growing, bipartisan commitment to ensuring the Corps and our communities have the tools necessary to address current and future threats from extreme weather events.  This is an area I look forward to addressing more fully in this year’s WRDA legislation.

I want to thank Secretary James and General Semonite for joining us today.  I look forward to an engaging dialogue with you and my colleagues on this important piece of legislation. 

Chair Napolitano:

Happy New Year. Today’s hearing marks the next important step of this Subcommittee in the development of a new Water Resources Development Act for 2020.

This Committee has worked on a bipartisan basis to move a water resources development act every two years.  We have been successful in enacting three consecutive WRDAs since 2014. 

Through 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.

I am committed to working with my Ranking Member, Mr. Westerman, and my Committee colleagues in moving a fourth-consecutive WRDA.

Since enactment of the Water Resources Development Act of 2018, the Corps has completed and submitted sixteen additional Chief’s Reports to Congress. These projects encompass flood risk management, hurricane and storm damage reduction, navigation, and ecosystem restoration.

Today, Subcommittee Members have an opportunity to evaluate these Reports, as well as other project and study requests submitted by non-Federal interests through the 2019 Annual Report to Congress, under Section 7001 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2014.

The 2020 Annual Report is due to Congress in February and will also be a resource for potential project and study requests for the upcoming WRDA bills.  

I am sure that Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, the Chief Engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who is here to testify today, will ensure that the 2020 Report is submitted to Congress on time this year.

WRDA has become a product of its own success.  Our constituents demand and expect that we move forward in developing this legislation every Congress.

It is why our Subcommittee’s agenda for the first part of this year will be driven by the development of a WRDA 2020 bill. 

I want to thank the Corps in advance for your assistance, and I look forward to working with Ranking Member Westerman and all my colleagues on a successful WRDA 2020. 

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