STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
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Mr. MCCAIN. Mr. President, I am pleased to join with Senator FEINGOLD in introducing the Water Resources Planning and Modernization Act of 2006. This legislation is designed to take a post-Katrina approach to Army Corps of Engineers projects. It would provide for a more effective system for selecting and funding Army Corps projects that help to protect our citizens against damage caused by floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Last August this Nation witnessed a horrible national disaster. When Hurricane Katrina hit, it brought with it destruction and tragedy beyond compare; more so than our Nation has seen in decades. Some six months later, the Gulf Coast region is still largely in the early stages of attempting to rebuild and recover and there is a long road ahead. As our Nation continues to dedicate significant resources to the reconstruction effort, we must be vigilant in our oversight obligations and take appropriate actions based on the many lessons learned from this tragedy.
One area that most would agree deserves needed attention concerns the Army Corps system. Funding is distributed in a manner that is not always awarded the most urgent projects. Because of this, citizens can end up paying for unnecessary and irresponsible Army Corps projects with their tax dollars and their safety. It is time for us to take a new approach to how the Army Corps does business. With lessons learned from Katrina, we can and must shepherd in a new era within the Army Corps that prioritizes critical projects and allows the American taxpayers to know that their money is being spent in an effective and efficient manner.
The Water Resources Planning and Modernization Act is the only Corps related measure that has been introduced in the Senate since Katrina tragically struck that truly takes a lessons-learned approach. Any measure acted upon by this Congress regarding the Corps simply must account for the most up to date information available. We owe it to the American public.
Historically, Congress has considered water projects costing many billions of taxpayer dollars as essential expenditures--regardless of the environmental costs or public benefits. That is why the modernization procedures in this bill are designed to achieve more critical and cost-effective expenditures for Corps water projects that will yield more environmental, economic, and social benefits. The need for these changes has been acknowledged by many for some time, but never has the need to spend scarce taxpayer dollars wisely been as crucial as it is now.
The Corps procedures for planning and approving projects, as well as the Congressional system for funding projects, are broken, but they can be fixed. The reforms in our bill are based on thorough program analysis and common sense. I commend Senator FEINGOLD for his efforts to build on and improve upon the legislation we have previously introduced. Corps modernization has been a priority that Senator FEINGOLD and I have shared for years but never before has there been such an appropriate atmosphere and urgent need to move forward on these overdue reforms.
Provisions of the legislation we are introducing today provide for a process to modify and modernize the Corps planning and approval procedures to consider economic, public, and environmental objectives. Independent review of Corps projects and a clear national prioritization of Corps projects would ensure that the most beneficial projects are constructed. Effective measures for mitigation of environmental and other damage caused by projects would be required and monitored.
With support from Taxpayers for Common Sense Action, National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, American Rivers, National Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense, Republicans for Environmental Protection, Sierra Club, and the World Wildlife Fund, the bill has broad interest and impact.
Water projects that provide economic and environmental benefits to our Nation's citizens--the hardworking American taxpayers--serve the common good and reflect our common interest in fiscal responsibility.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.