December 05, 2023

Ranking Members Larsen, Napolitano Statements from Hearing on Past and Future Water Resources Development Acts

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) during today’s hearing titled, “Water Resources Development Acts: Status of Past Provisions and Future Needs.”
Videos of opening statements from Larsen and Napolitano can be found here and here.
More information on the hearing can be found here.
Ranking Member Larsen:
Thank you Chairman Rouzer and Ranking Member Napolitano for holding this hearing.
I want to welcome back the panel as well, and thanks for your flexibility in coming back.
Since 2014, this Committee has honored its commitment to meet local water resources needs across the country, carried out by the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), through the bipartisan and biennial enactment of Water Resources Development Acts (WRDAs).?
Predictable WRDA enactment supports projects that address local water resources challenges creating jobs in construction and supporting industries and the businesses that benefit directly from Corps’ projects. 
Regular enactment of WRDAs also allows for the implementation of critical and timely policy reforms that improve the function and flexibility of the Corps to respond to local water resources challenges, including section 214 on which I will have a question for you regarding its implementation.
WRDA 2022 provides a good blueprint for future WRDAs.
This legislation successfully authorized the construction of 25 new projects, covering every facet of the Corps’ missions, as well as almost 100 new feasibility studies for future water resources development projects. 
WRDA 2022 also authorized a historic total of more than $6.5 billion in environmental infrastructure assistance for community-driven projects, including $200 million for water and wastewater infrastructure requested by local officials in western Washington state.
These federal, state and local partnerships are critical to help address the growing water and wastewater infrastructure needs throughout the country.
Lastly, WRDA 2022 continued to expand America’s navigational capacity, strengthen its supply chains, ensure our communities are resilient to the challenges posed by climate change, and increase the coordination between the Corps and Tribal, minority, and economically disadvantaged communities.

Beyond the regular enactment of WRDAs, Congress also needs to provide sufficient funding for project planning, construction, and operation and maintenance so that communities can quickly realize the benefits of water resources improvements.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is a great example of how this should work. The BIL provided a massive downpayment—a total of about $17 billion—for critical WRDA projects.
The Corps has shown exactly how and where they spent that money—nearly all of it has already been allocated.
These BIL dollars are hard at work, making a positive impact on communities, and creating and supporting good-paying American jobs and the U.S. economy.

Now, Congress must ensure the seamless implementation of critical water resources development projects, while providing the Corps with sufficient funds to carry out its mission.
I look forward to a continued partnership with Chairman Graves, Chairman Rouzer, and Ranking Member Napolitano, in developing a new, bipartisan WRDA 2024, and welcome the leadership of the Corps here today as part of that discussion.
Ranking Member Napolitano:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding today’s hearing.
Through biennial enactment of Water Resources Development Acts, this committee is addressing the water related needs of our states and local communities. WRDAs are a shining example of how Congress can efficiently and effectively meet the bipartisan needs of our communities when we decide it is better to work together than apart.
I look forward to continuing my partnership with you, with Chairman Graves, and with Ranking Member Larsen to get this done. I also want to thank Assistant Secretary Connor and General Spellmon for their attendance and testimony.
The Corps plays a critical role in addressing the water resources challenges of this nation, protecting our communities from flooding, restoring our environment and ecosystems, and maintaining our nation’s economy by supporting our ports and harbors.
Timely implementation of past WRDA provisions can help make communities more resilient to stronger storms, higher seas, and longer droughts—and this is especially true related to the water supply and water conservation needs of the nation.
Over the past decade, I have championed several provisions to enhance the authority and flexibility of the Corps to address local water supply and water conservation needs, while balancing these efforts with the other authorized purposes of Corps’ projects.
For too long, we’ve seen the Corps revert to the position that water supply and water conservation are not “primary missions of the Corps”—meaning that these objectives do not get the same attention and budgetary priority as other mission areas. The Corps restates that arbitrary stance in its report on water supply and water conservation that I requested in WRDA 2020 and was submitted to Congress in September of this year.
I ask unanimous consent that this report be included as part of today’s hearing record.
Mr. Chairman, much of the country is now facing similar water supply challenges as we have long felt in the West. Therefore, it is prudent that we rethink the Corps’ role in helping communities facing water insecurity—not to supplant state and local efforts, but to support them.
If the Corps or the Office of Management and Budget is using arbitrary, policy-level factors to shut down the consideration of Congressionally-authorized water supply and water conservation elements in water resources projects, we should all be concerned.
If the Corps or OMB is using artificial barriers to exclude from consideration worthy projects with substantial state and local support, then Congress should revisit how authorized water supply and water conservation elements are evaluated within the other historic priorities and missions of the Corps.
This is an issue that I have followed for a very long time, and something I continue to discuss with stakeholders and partners in Congress as we develop a new WRDA bill for 2024.
Mr. Chairman, the last few WRDAs included significant policy wins for how the Corps develops and implements projects.
For example, in WRDA 2022, Congress directed the Corps to be more forward-thinking in addressing the challenge of climate change.
For example, I co-authored the Managed Aquifer Recharge Study to direct the Corps to conduct a national assessment of managed aquifer recharge projects.
WRDA 2022 also directed the Corps to prioritize the update of water control manuals for Corps’ projects that include water supply or water conservation as authorized purposes. These are common sense measures to help states like California prepare for the world of climate change and severe drought.
I am also particularly thankful that in WRDA 2022 we were able to make a commitment to address the needs of tribal and disadvantaged communities, building on similar provisions from WRDA 2020. Fully incorporating these changes into the Corps’ culture is critical to address the historic challenges faced by Tribal and disadvantaged communities in working with the Corps.
The Corps has great resources and technical expertise, and we must ensure that all communities are able to access their assistance.
Mr. Chairman, the next WRDA would be the sixth biennial bill since the Committee returned to regular passage of WRDA bills in 2014. Last Congress, we worked together with friendship and collegiality through hearings and meetings for a bipartisan accomplishment.
I look forward to working with you on another successful WRDA this Congress.
Let’s get to work, and I yield back.