February 02, 2016

Ranking Member Napolitano Opening Statement at Roundtable on “Building Upon Success: Priorities for the Water Resources Development Act of 2016”

Statement of

The Honorable Grace F. Napolitano, Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment

Roundtable on “Building Upon Success: Priorities for the

Water Resources Development Act of 2016”


Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling together this roundtable on the priorities for a new water resources development act. 


Today, we have assembled a diverse group of stakeholders representing major cities, industries, and interest groups that directly benefit from a robust and active civil works program of the Corps of Engineers. 


For example, today we will hear from a representative of the City of Los Angeles who will discuss the benefits of a pending Corps’ project for the restoration of the Los Angeles River on the health, safety, and quality of life of many of my constituents. 


We will also hear how a robust civil works program is essential for moving goods and services from suppliers to the general public, and how the adequate maintenance of navigation centers and infrastructure is essential for our national, regional, and local economies.


Clearly, a robust civil works program is essential to the protection of our communities, our infrastructure, and our public health and safety.  Over the decades, we have relied on the Corps to provide traditional vital flood protection and navigation services to our communities, but now, we also call on the Corps to restore and protect our natural environment along with these traditional missions. 


The modern Corps is asked to be more nimble, more responsive to a changing environment, and more flexible in meeting competing needs for water resources. 


Yet, all of these demands come when Federal resources for the Corps have become more limited, and the path necessary for the development of a Corps study-to-project has become more complicated.


Faced with these challenges, it is no surprise, then, that the water resources bill of 2014 was a transformative bill.  It opened the door to greater non-Federal financial participation in the development of Corps projects and studies, and created a new process for the Corps and Congress to receive information on local priorities for water resources development. 


However, the question of whether these changes were sufficient to meet the growing water resources challenges facing our nation is still open for debate. 


Yes, allowing locals to pay a greater share of a traditional Corps project or study can move that project or study forward for that community – but that model does not work for everyone, and should not be the only model for meeting our nation’s water resource needs.


Similarly, creating a new process for authorization of a Corps project or study seems fairly straightforward – however; not all communities are as sophisticated as major cities, and we should not make the process so complicated that local towns and communities feel to need to hire a paid consultant to benefit from the work of the Corps.


Mr. Chairman, we all have expectations on the role the Corps should (or could) play in meeting our local water resources needs – the question is whether the Corps currently has sufficient funding, statutory authority, and capacity to do so. 


That is what I hope to hear from today’s roundtable.


If the answer is yes, please let us know the areas that are working well; but, if the answer is no, please let us know your specific recommendations on how we can improve the process.


I look forward to today’s feedback, and on working with my colleagues in both enacting a new water resources bill for 2016, as well as in helping the Corps be that robust agency we have come to depend upon.


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.