ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - June 25, 2004)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 694 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill, H.R. 4614.
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Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. VISCLOSKY) for his leadership on the committee and for yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, in a few minutes, I am going to be offering a very important amendment to highlight an incredibly valuable program that affects the Upper Mississippi River basin, the Environmental Management Program. It has been in existence since 1986. It deals with habitat restoration along the river, along with long-term resource monitoring so we can better manage the river basin and the ecosystem. I look forward to being able to continue the work on this important project with the chairman and the ranking member of the committee as we move to conference in dealing with the funding issue.
But right now, Mr. Chairman, I want to recognize and draw attention in this Chamber to a very important and fun event that is going to occur in the Upper Mississippi River over the next week. It is the re-creation of the Grand Excursion that occurred there 150 years ago. The Grand Excursion is regarded as one of the greatest promotional trips ever devised in our Nation's history, one that changed the face of the Upper Mississippi River forever. In 1854, the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad became the first railroad to reach the Mississippi River.
To celebrate, the owners and contractors for the railroad proposed an excursion for a select group of stockholders, friends, and family. But word spread quickly about the occasion, resulting in a 1,200 person entourage traveling from Rock Island, Illinois, to what is now known as Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was the Grand Excursion of paddle boats up the Mississippi River.
My district in Western Wisconsin has more miles along the Mississippi River than any other district and will play host to this excursion coming through our communities over the next week.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the excursionists were considered "the most brilliant ever assembled in the West." Statesmen, historians, diplomats, poets, newspaper editors. As the media wrote home to their newspapers, word spread about the wonders of the Nation's "dark interior."
This event turned into an opportunity to show some of our Nation's most influential people the fantastic beauty, numerous resources, and the unlimited opportunities that the Mississippi River and the West could provide. The year after, steamboat traffic along the Upper Mississippi River doubled, flooding the region with new settlers. The Grand Excursion also brought millions of dollars of investment to the area and positioned the Upper Mississippi region as a dominant force in the development of the Nation in the 19th Century.
The Grand Excursion of 2004 is an opportunity now to draw awareness from around the Nation and around the world about the recreational, the commercial, and the environmental opportunities that the Mississippi River and all its communities provide. In addition to the "Grand Flotilla," the retracing of the Grand Excursion's journey by trains, paddlewheelers, and steamboats, over 50 communities along the 419 mile route will hold festivals and educational events to commemorate their 150th anniversary. Those who are unable to participate firsthand in the celebrations will be able to experience the excitement through the dynamic Web site that has been created.
I wish the participants of the Grand Excursion much fun and success in the upcoming week.
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Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, based on previous conversations and the agreement I had with the Chair and the ranking member of the committee, I was offering this amendment with the intent to ask unanimous consent to withdraw and continue working with them and with the conferees in regards to a very important program that affects the upper Mississippi river basin, the Environmental Management Program.
It is an authorized program that first passed in 1986. It was reauthorized on a permanent basis in 1999. The authorization level has gone up to $33 million. My concern is that we have over the last few years been backtracking in regards to the funding of this important program.
As co-chair of the bipartisan upper Mississippi river basin Congressional task force, I have worked with my colleagues from this five-State region to build consensus about how best to protect and restore the nationally significant and environmental treasures of the upper Mississippi River.
I want to commend my colleagues who are here today, the gentlewoman from Minnesota (Ms. McCollum) and my good friend, the gentleman from Missouri, Mr. Hulshof, for their strong support for the EMP program and the support we have had in the bipartisan Mississippi River Caucus.
Earlier this year, 013 of us of the River Caucus wrote to the committee asking the committee to respect and appropriate funds for EMP at the President's budget request of $28 million. The committee, however, in this underlying report is only recommending $16 million.
The fear is we are backsliding on current projects that are in the works that will delay the completion of these projects by years. It will delay the implementation of new identified habitat restoration projects along the upper Mississippi River, along with the crucial long-term resource monitoring and the data collection which helps us better manage this important national treasure that we have in middle America.
The upper Mississippi and the entire Mississippi River basin area is North America's largest migratory route for waterfowl. It is the primary drinking source for 33 million Americans. It adds countless billions of dollars to our regional economy through industry and companies and farmers with the commercial navigation that is available along the Mississippi, not to mention a $6 billion tourism impact on the upper area and close to $2 billion recreation impact in the upper Mississippi River area.
And we have always recognized the legislation that has preceded us today that this is a multi-use river system between commercial navigation, which has existed in the past since the 1930s when the lock and dam system was created to harness the power of the river, to the recreation and the tourist impact.
The EMP program was established in the 1980s recognizing the need to maintain that important balance along the river between the infrastructure needs that are ongoing, but also the habitat restoration and long-term resource monitoring that the EMP program currently does. But, unfortunately, again, we have had backsliding over the last few years in regards to the commitment of the program.
Fortunately, the administration sees it a little bit differently. Based on a letter that I wrote to the administration requesting funding earlier this year, the President responded to my request by a letter dated April 20, and I quote, "As you know, the President submitted his 2005 budget on February 2004. I am pleased to say that the budget identifies EMP as one of the eight highest priority Army Corps of Engineer construction projects in the Nation and proposes $28 million in funding for it an increase of $9 million or 47 percent from the previous fiscal year."
The point is, this has received wide bipartisan support, support from the governors and the five States of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, that have supported this project. Various groups that are concerned about river management issues are very supportive of the environmental management program. The Corps of Engineers has had a multiyear, multimillion dollar navigation study that they have initially released a preliminary report upon asking in part for $5.3 billion ecosystem management project to go along with a proposed lock and dam expansion project.
In light of where we seem to be heading in regards to the river management issues, we would hope we could get more support for the funding of a program that has proven itself year in and year out with wide bipartisan support, with tangible results that we see along the upper Mississippi River, something that thousands of people will see in the coming week as the 1854 grand excursion is recreated with a grand flotilla going up the Mississippi and finally ending up, I believe, in the district of the gentlewoman from Minnesota (Ms. McCollum) for a 4th of July celebration.
The river has played an incredibly important role in the development of middle America, the Great Plains States, and the upper Midwest generally. From the exposure it received in 1854 with the Grand Excursion to the great American novels that Mark Twain wrote of two kids growing up on the Mississippi, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, to the ongoing uses of the river, we believe we need to do a better job of funding the EMP; and hopefully with the leadership's cooperation, we can accomplish that in conference.
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