WATER RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 14, 2005)
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Mr. HULSHOF. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time. I rise to speak in favor of this long overdue Water Resources Development Act and to applaud the chairman and ranking member for bringing it to the floor, but specifically to speak strongly in opposition to the amendment offered by my colleagues, the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Flake) and the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer).
I grew up in the shadow of the levees along the Mississippi River that protect the fertile farm land in southeast Missouri and delivered grain from our family's farm to barge terminals; and those extra cents per bushel have helped keep food on our table and keep that family farm within our family.
I am presently privileged to represent Missouri's ninth district which includes about 120 miles of the Mississippi, four of the locks in question, several important environmental projects, including mitigation and habitat restoration. Let me echo what the gentleman who just spoke, my friend from Arkansas, said, that it is a little bit frustrating for those of us who know and understand and appreciate the character and the many facets of the Mississippi River to deal with an amendment that has been offered by those whose personal knowledge of locks and dams is a seat on a plane 30,000 feet above these very structures which maintain the navigable waterway of the Mississippi River.
When the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer) was a signatory to a letter to the gentleman from Ohio (Chairman Hobson) back in March of 2004 urging a line item appropriation to dredge the Columbia River channel from 40 to 43 feet, I did not object because the gentleman should know his own district and how it affects his infrastructure in his area.
Let me just address some of the concerns that have been raised by the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer). First of all, I have been hearing that this amendment by the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Flake) and the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer) is a compromise.
The underlying bill is a compromise. There are 29 locks and dams on the upper Mississippi River. We are talking about modernizing five of those locks on the upper Mississippi along with two on the Illinois River.
We have heard the discussion about this being a costly boondoggle, that the cost-benefit analysis does not justify modernization of locks and dams. Here are some facts. First of all, I did not hear from the gentleman offering the amendment that we should have a cost-benefit analysis for the environmental restoration portion of the bill. Secondly, as the chairman pointed out in his opening remarks, $900 million, half of the cost of modernizing the locks and dams, is already being borne by the barge owners and operators with this 20-cent-per-fuel excise tax that is now going into the Inland Waterway Trust Fund.
What is interesting, Mr. Chairman, is the fact that 40 percent of the funds in that trust fund have been placed there by the upper Mississippi barge owners and operators, and yet only about 15 percent of the trust fund is used on projects that help those operators on the upper Mississippi.
It is not the first time those of us in the Midwest helped subsidize infrastructure across the country. Highway 89 that cuts through the gentleman from Arizona's (Mr. Flake) district, those of us in the Midwest helped subsidize the maintenance of that highway.
Just as the light rail project the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer) has pushed for, about 48 cents out of a dollar is borne by the passengers of the light rail system. We pick up the rest of the cost. I think that is appropriate just as the users of the upper Mississippi are paying for half the cost.
Let me say on the issue of traffic decreasing, because the gentleman talked about the $900 million that has been invested in modernization already. Even with those investments, these 1930s facilities, we are losing 10 percent a year and have for the last 10 years, 10 percent reliability. And so the fact is if a project is broken, it is time to fix it. You do not wait to see if it gets better.
Traffic has been increasing on the inland waterway system everywhere except in the upper Mississippi because of the declining condition of these locks and dams. It is time we modernize them.
I urge a vote for the water bill and a strong vote "no" against the Flake-Blumenauer amendment.
I thank the gentleman for bringing forth a WRDA bill that balances all needs. I also want to thank both Chairman YOUNG and Chairman DUNCAN for honoring my request and including the modernization of seven locks on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway in this legislation.
I urge all members to support the modernization of these locks and oppose the Flake-Blumenauer amendment that would ensure that the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers remain gravel roads in a world filled with interstates.
No one would say that our Nation's trucks should transport materials on roads built in the 1930s. But we are forcing the barges on the Mississippi River to use locks built in that far-gone era. Doing so limits our access to export markets and increases the load on our already over-burdened road and rail system.
Today we will hear supporters of this amendment say that river traffic has decreased; this is true but is very misleading. Barge traffic has decreased only in the section of river that contains these woefully outdated and undersized locks. When you look at stretches of the river that are unencumbered by 1930's technology, barge traffic is increasing.
Why? Because this section is plagued by delays and unscheduled maintenance closures, in fact, the capacity of the system is decreasing by 10 percent per year because of these closures. Thus, shippers are forced to stay away from this section of the river and must use road or rail to transport their crops. Doing so increases transportation costs by almost 30 percent.
When something is broke you don't wait to see if it will get better on its own, you fix it before the problem gets worse. Yet Congressmen FLAKE and BLUMENAUER publicly say they want to wait and see if the situation improves. In reality they are using these costly lock delays and the shippers' regrettable but understandable lack of confidence in 1930's technology to achieve their goal of eliminating this project, saying, "If they come we might build it."
Additionally, the Flake-Blumenauer amendment contains no exceptions for droughts, floods or other factors outside of anyone's control that could impact the amount of cargo transported during their three-year window. Quite frankly, acts of God should not preclude us from helping farmers secure export markets.
Nor should we be forced to justify this project during a very small window of time; we need to look long term. The long-term effects of inaction more than justify the project. If we allow the delays at our outdated locks to continue, farmers will lose $562 million per year, the Nation would lose more than 20,000 jobs and our trade deficit will increase by $264 million. Moreover, corn exports will be decreased by 68 million bushels per year, soybean exports by 10 million per year, all before the year 2020.
And every day we delay is a day where more cargo is taken off of the river and put on trucks and rails. These are dangerous options for all Americans, dangerous to the driving public because every tow and barge that is taken off the river is replaced by 870 trucks on our highways, increasing the likelihood of accidents by 5,967 percent. And dangerous for the shipper because every barge is replaced by 225 rail cars that even the rail industry says it does not have, creating a situation where farmers will be able to grow crops and even sell crops but never be able to ship these crops.
If you support trade, providing farmers access to as many markets as possible and oppose adding 4 million semi trucks to our overcrowded roads, come join me and the American Farm Bureau, the Carpenters Union, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the National Corn Growers, and the American Soybean Association-to name a few-in our opposition to the Flake-Blumenauer Amendment.
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Mr. HULSHOF. Mr. Chairman, to my friend from Oregon I would personally invite him to come out and view these. Some of these locks, built, again, Mr. Chairman, in the 1930s, are standing just out of habit, with bailing wire and duct tape. And the Corps of Engineers has done a magnificent job.
Here is the reason, which I did not get to address earlier as far as the trigger that is in the gentleman's amendment. The trigger, the tonnage requirement the gentleman has in his amendment, does not take into account, for instance, the weather. A year ago, because of high water, the river was shut down as far as barge navigation. In low-water years, barges can only fill halfway, for instance.
So by putting this trigger mechanism in place, it does not take into account the many variables like weather, like the failure of one of the locks, which I did share with the gentleman, a bad harvest year, fluctuating market prices that may mean farmers choose to store their grain rather than ship their grain.
Again, I certainly acknowledge the intent with which the gentleman is bringing this amendment; but, again, because of the age of these locks and dams, it is time for modernization.
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AMENDMENT NO. 6 OFFERED BY MR. FLAKE
Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.
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Mr. HULSHOF. Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman for yielding me this time.
In the remaining time, first of all, to my friend from Arizona, this is an authorization, not an appropriation. Half of the cost is going to be borne by those that use it, $900 million from the inland waterway trust fund. To my friend from Oregon, the trends on the inland waterway system have gone up except in this area where the locks and dams are crumbling because we are losing the reliability of these antiquated structures that were built in the 1930s with a 50-year useful life. And would they put the same sort of requirement on our national highway system?
The fact is that the Inland Waterway Structure and these locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi do have national significance. That is why we must modernize them and reject this amendment.
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