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Public Statements

Water Resources Development Act of 2005

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


WATER RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 14, 2005)

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Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise to urge all Members to support H.R. 2864, the Water Resources Development Act of 2005. I want to first acknowledge the great assistance, the hard work, and especially the bipartisan nature of all the efforts of the staff on both sides and the gentleman from Alaska (Chairman Young), our great chairman; the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), our ranking member, who has worked on this committee as a staff member and as a member since being elected to the House and has seniority over all of us on that; and my close friendship and good working relationship with the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. EddieBernice Johnson), my ranking member. And I want to acknowledge also the hard work done by the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Costello), the former ranking member, with whom we worked out so many contentious issues the first time this bill came up.

The bill authorizes and directs the Corps to carry out various studies, projects, and programs relating to navigation, flood damage reduction, shoreline protection, dam safety, water supply, recreation, and environmental restoration and protection. H.R. 2864 is very similar to H.R. 2557 from the last Congress, which passed this House on September 24, 2003, by a vote of 412 to 8.

At the beginning of this Congress, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure leadership sent a Dear Colleague to all House Members to give them an opportunity to update their project requests. In response, the committee received more than 340 letters from Members making requests for more than 1,000 projects, studies and modifications. Given budgetary constraints, we could not accommodate every request. However, we were able to address over 600 separate matters.

The bill also includes provisions that reform the planning and project development process of the Corps of Engineers, including the most extensive independent peer review process ever set forth in one of these water resources bills or any other bill. These provisions were worked out in a bipartisan manner in the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure last Congress and were in the WRDA bill that the House approved overwhelmingly at that time.

We stand by the agreement that we made during the last Congress and have made only a few clarifying changes to these policy provisions. As a result, the main difference between H.R. 2864 and the bill from the last Congress is the addition of three large projects that were not ready for authorization during the last Congress but have now completed chief's reports from the Corps of Engineers. These projects are the Indian River Lagoon Everglades Restoration project, the Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration program, and the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway Navigation and Ecosystem Restoration program. Together, these projects represent $5 billion in federal authorization or about half the cost of this bill. We knew these chief's reports were coming, so, in the last Congress, the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee held separate hearings on each. Later there will be debate on part of the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway chief's report, the authorization of the seven new locks there. This is a $1.8 billion authorization, but one half of that funding comes from the Inland Waterway Trust Fund, which is funded by a 20 cents per gallon tax on inland waterway fuel.

These lock authorizations are the number one priority of the Inland Waterway Users Board, the board representing the people who pay into the inland Waterway Trust Fund. It is important to understand that the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway Navigation Authorization is not the most costly Corps project. The authorization of $1.8 billion is for seven different locks; so the per-project cost is really on average $257 million.

At the subcommittee hearing on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway project, the subcommittee received very strong testimony in support of this project from the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. All of the civil works projects in this bill, all of them, Mr. Chairman, are investments in America that save capital, make our exports more competitive, make our imports more affordable, and improve our environment and our quality of life.

Over 200 organizations have sent us letters supporting this legislation, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who has stated that they will make this one of their key votes of the year; the American Farm Bureau; the American Association of Port Authorities; the American Society of Civil Engineers; the Associated General Contractors of America; the National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies; the National Corn Growers Association; the National Association of Wheat Growers; the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; the National Mining Association; the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association; the Portland Cement Association; seven different national labor unions. In fact, I do not believe that we will deal with any bill in the Congress this year that has more bipartisan and broad support from both labor and business than this legislation, and over 180 other organizations that would be too numerous to name, and it would take too much time.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, I want to recognize again the expertise and friendship provided by the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Eddie Bernice Johnson), the ranking member of the subcommittee. It is an honor and privilege to work with her and also the gentleman from Alaska (Chairman Young) and the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), ranking member, and the entire committee. We have a bill that has the unanimous support of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Mr. Chairman, it is a good bill, and I urge all Members to support it.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. UPTON. I yield to the gentleman from Tennessee.

Mr. DUNCAN. I thank the gentleman for yielding. It is my understanding that this is a very fine project that the gentleman has endorsed and is strongly proposing here, and we will be glad to work with the gentleman in every way to assure that this ends up in the legislation.

Mr. UPTON. Thank you.

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Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume. I think everyone here knows that I am one of the most fiscally conservative Members of this Congress, but this is a very fiscally conservative bill. It is not fiscally conservative to let a very important asset to deteriorate, and so I urge passage of this bill.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Flake).

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AMENDMENT NO. 1 OFFERED BY MR. DUNCAN

Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, this en bloc amendment makes technical and conforming changes to project-related provisions in the bill and authorizes or modifies additional projects brought to the committee's attention following committee action.

Specifically, the Corps of Engineers has informed the committee that six additional chief's reports recommending that Congress authorize a water resources project will be completed by December 31, 2005.

The amendment also directs the Corps of Engineers to carry out a number of small projects under existing corps authority to provide flood damage reduction and emergency streambank protection.

For other projects that have not been studied, the amendment authorizes for new Corps of Engineers' projects. The amendment authorizes one land transfer for a navigation project. Finally, the amendment authorizes a number of activities or programs for water resources management.

This amendment, like the underlying bill, has been developed in a biparisan fashion. All projects must be in the Federal interest and must comply with cost-sharing rules. This means not every project could be addressed, but within these constraints we did the best to meet the needs of all communities. I urge all Members to support this amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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AMENDMENT NO. 2 OFFERED BY MR. MENENDEZ

Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to claim the time in opposition, although I do not intend to speak in opposition to the amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Tennessee?

There was no objection.

Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, the gentleman's amendment would authorize an environmental restoration project in New Jersey contingent upon the Chief of Engineers completing a final report not later than December 31, 2005.

The chief's report is the final technical document submitted by the Corps of Engineers for a project. It describes the analysis done, the alternatives considered, and the recommended plan.

In putting this bill together, the committee included those projects that had favorable chief's reports. With passage of the manager's amendment, we have added additional projects that the corps tells us will soon have completed chief's reports. These projects are authorized contingent on there being a completed chief's report by December 31, 2005.

Although the Liberty State Park project was not on the list of nearly completed studies provided earlier by the Corps, we now understand that this report is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Therefore, I have no objection to the gentleman's amendment to include his project as a contingent authorization.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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AMENDMENT NO. 3 OFFERED BY MR. STUPAK

Mr. STUPAK. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to claim the time in opposition, although I do not intend to speak in opposition to the amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Tennessee?

There was no objection.

Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, the administration has issued performance-based budgeting criteria based on tonnage being moved. That method places a very low priority on maintaining small ports.

This process ignores the fact that two-thirds of all cargo on major waterways either start or finish at small ports. If we abandon our small harbors, we adversely affect the entire waterway system that is already plagued with deferred maintenance and crumbling infrastructure.

The gentleman's amendment would ask the Corps to prepare its budget using its previous criteria that were based on maintaining an acceptable level of service at least cost for a commercial port. It is not primarily based on the tonnage in transit. Using this previous method would not ignore the contributions of our small harbors to the Nation's commercial transportation system.

I believe the administration's current method of budgeting could adversely affect commercial navigation. Therefore, I support the gentleman's amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The gentleman from California is one of the best friends I have in this Congress, and I certainly have great admiration and respect for him, and I sympathize with everything that he has just said; but I must regretfully state the position of the committee at this point, which is in opposition to this amendment.

The civil works program of the Army Corps of Engineers provides Federal assistance for dredging entrance channels and harbors and the Department of Homeland Security now offers grants for security projects.

But, generally, capital improvements to port infrastructure are a non-Federal responsibility. The gentleman's amendment would permit a non-Federal interest, which could be the port authority or the State generally, to collect a fee per container that moves through the harbor and to use those funds for security purposes or for infrastructure projects within the port or any transportation infrastructure outside the harbor.

First, if the goal is to help ports, this amendment is unnecessary. Ports can already charge fees for services under the authority of section 208 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, which they can use to help them with the cost of security and port infrastructure.

Second, this amendment goes too far by allowing the collected funds to be used for transportation projects outside the port. This could mean potentially a State fee paid by shippers of containers at ports being used to pay for highway and rail projects elsewhere in the State. This is why the American Association of Port Authorities and even the gentleman's home port of LA/Long Beach oppose this amendment.

The Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing on this bill in November 2003. The American Association of Port Authorities, the Waterfront Coalition, and the World Shipping Council all testified in opposition to this proposal.

This amendment is the same as the amendment the gentleman from California brought to the House floor last Congress. It was defeated by a vote of 359-65. The committee believes that the ports can and should charge whatever fees they believe are necessary to cover their security needs and infrastructure projects. They have the authority to do that now, and Congress should not dictate how they make this business decision.

I can assure the gentleman that I would like to work with him on some of the broader section 208 issues to see if we can better address his very legitimate concerns. We certainly sympathize with the gentleman's amendment. The gentleman's amendment is well-intentioned, but at this point the committee position is to urge our colleagues to oppose this amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Eddie Bernice Johnson).

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Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in opposition to the Flake-Blumenauer amendment. The gentleman from Oregon is one of the most active and one of the finest members of our Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment. The gentleman from Arizona and I vote alike on probably 98 or 99 percent of the issues that come before this Congress, so I cannot overstate my respect and admiration for both of these gentlemen; but I do have to oppose this amendment.

Failure to upgrade our infrastructure is not fiscally conservative. Not constructing the upper Mississippi navigation improvement project, according to the National Corn Growers Association, will result in a loss of $562 million in annual farm income by 2020. Of this, $246 million would be lost in reduced exports to other countries. Navigation on the upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway provides for more than 400,000 jobs, including 90,000 high-paying manufacturing jobs. The navigation improvement project in H.R. 2864 would create an additional 48 million man-hours of work. There is a critical Federal interest in navigation. The vast array of navigation infrastructure is important to the Nation's economy and a secure economy is a necessary part of a secure Nation.

Right now, increased transportation costs mean that some of our farmers and manufacturers will not be able to compete in the world market and may go out of business. This means the shipment of cargo on these rivers will decrease, not increase. So it is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy that we have been discussing. Right now, traffic on these rivers is constrained, very constrained, by small aging locks. It is not fiscally conservative to constrain the United States economy with outdated and obsolete infrastructure. If you do not improve or maintain buildings and homes, they deteriorate. That is not a fiscally conservative thing to do. We could say the same about our locks and our dams.

The language contained in title 8 of the bill is compromise language. This language was negotiated last year with the other body. The WRDA bill pending in the other body contains virtually identical language. The Flake-Blumenauer amendment will either delay or halt the project, costing U.S. taxpayers much, much more in the future. As a fiscal conservative, I try to be a careful steward of taxpayer dollars. This project is an investment in America, and I support it. Voting against the Flake-Blumenauer amendment is the fiscally conservative thing to do. Accordingly, I must oppose this amendment and urge a "no" vote on it.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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AMENDMENT NO. 7 OFFERED BY MR. KIND

Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to claim the time in opposition to the amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Tennessee?

There was no objection.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Duncan) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I will not oppose the amendment. I will simply say, the gentleman's amendment relates to the project for navigation improvements and ecosystem restoration on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway System. This framework for what will be multiple projects is authorized in title VIII of the reported bill.

Section 8005 of H.R. 2864, as reported, requires that the Secretary make a determination whether or not the projects are being carried out at comparable rates. This amendment directs the Secretary to submit an annual report to Congress on this determination that is already required by the reported bill. I have no objection to the Secretary's reporting to Congress on this issue, and therefore, I have no objection to this amendment.

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Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Tennessee?

There was no objection.

Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I just want to thank the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Eddie Bernice Johnson) for those very kind remarks, and I could say everything back to her that she just said. And we appreciate the cooperation and the hard work of the staff on both sides.

I had the privilege to introduce Susan Bodine to the Senate committee this morning, and I said so many good things about her at that time that I would not want to repeat those again or her head would get so big, she would not be able to get out of this room here today.

But we do appreciate so much the work that she has done over the years for our subcommittee, and she has been one of the finest staffers that this Congress has ever had, and we want to congratulate her. We hate to lose her to the EPA, but certainly she is moving onward and upward and we wish her the very best.

With that, I urge passage of this bill.

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