WATER RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - November 05, 2007)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Hulshof) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. HULSHOF. Mr. Speaker, I look at the time, it is about 13 years ago exactly at this moment that I was standing at the altar saying, ``I do'' to the love of my life. So I must begin by wishing a happy 13th anniversary to the most beautiful woman in the world, with all respect to those ladies that are here present. I guess every marriage has obviously some high points and some disappointments.
And the other reason for me coming to floor is to actually speak about the disappointment that I have with the White House, particularly with its veto of H.R. 1495, the Water Resources Development Act, often referred to as WRDA. This veto, if I must say so, was ill advised and I expect will be overridden by this House tomorrow and the Senate in the coming days.
I acknowledge that the President, during the veto message, mentioned that when the WRDA bill left the House, it was about $15 billion. The Senate's version was at 14 billion. And the final version of the water resources bill was somewhere around 23 billion. Yet certainly the White House understands that the bill that left the House had different priorities emphasized, different projects were being considered by the Senate and as such when the conference was convened, those bills had to be combined. The President, in his veto message, said, in essence, I fully support funding for water resources projects.
Respectfully, I must point out that the President's budget each year woefully underfunds the Army Corps of Engineers budget in my view, the operations and maintenance budget. And the White House went on with its veto message to say, My administration has repeatedly urged Congress to authorize only those projects that provide a high return on investment.
Well, I share the White House's belief that taxpayers deserve a dollar's worth of services for every dollar they remit in taxes. But just looking at water resources projects in terms of dollars and cents is what caused us to only have category 3 levees in New Orleans. We have seen how short-sighted that decision was. In fact, I would suggest that over the last 25 years, every dollar that the Corps has invested in flood control has been returned six-fold in potential damages that had been averted.
A WRDA bill has not been passed by Congress in 7 years. Communities around this Nation are now in desperate need for projects such as levees and protective coastal wetlands. Moreover, in the past 7 years, our water-borne transportation infrastructure has continued to crumble. There are 192 active locks on navigable waterways in this Nation. The average age is 60. The President, by his veto, is choosing to ignore these needs, possibly harming the lives and certainly the livelihoods of millions of people in this country.
One of the most important projects for the Missouri-Illinois delegations is the much-needed modernization of the five locks on the upper Mississippi River and two on the Illinois waterway. This is something that we helped author back in the 108th Congress. And certainly I acknowledge my good friends and supporters of this, the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. Boswell), the dynamic duo from Illinois, Mr. Costello and Mr. Shimkus on our side of the aisle, and also Chairman Oberstar and Ranking Member Baker have been instrumental in bringing this project to fruition.
Look, these locks are vital to farmers, manufacturers and many other industries in Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. These locks on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers facilitate the movement of 100 million tons of cargo every year. While almost 50 percent, half of this is cargo, is agricultural, the river also transports asphalt for road construction, coal for electricity. In fact, did you know that every gallon of jet fuel that is used at O'Hare and Midway Airports in Chicago is transported on our navigable waterways?
The shipments of these products via the river saves the American public between $800 million and $2 billion over other modes of transportation. Certainly I would suggest that while not every farmer in the region uses the river to ship crops, all growers are impacted by it. Every day the price of grain a farmer receives at his home market is based on the price of grain that moves on the Mississippi River to export markets. The lower the cost of transportation here within our own borders, the lower the cost of U.S. grain is on the world market, the more grain the United States is able to sell to our foreign trading partners.
As some in this Chamber know, I have a personal experience shipping on the river. I grew up in the shadow of the levees along the Mississippi in southeast Missouri. Lock modernization, I can assure you, will ensure that farmers in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and elsewhere continue to have the same benefit that my family had growing up on our family's farm, the ability to ship crops to international markets via the most cost-effective method.
Now, many of these locks, unfortunately, are being held together with bailing wire and duct tape. Our senior Senator, Senator Bond, is fond of saying that these locks belong on the National Register of Historic Places. He is actually mistaken. They are already on the National Registry of Historic Places.
I urge this House to override the President's veto.