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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCALISE. Mr. Chairman, this is a bipartisan amendment, worked on with Mr. Richmond and others, and it deals with dredging. You know, we've seen over the last few months a shift in the Corps of Engineers' policy. In years past, they've always reprogrammed millions of dollars, in many cases tens of millions of dollars, from other areas within their agency because they inadequately had initially funded dredging of our waterways. And of course, this is the lifeblood to moving commerce throughout not only much of our country, but as we export to other countries throughout the world.

For whatever reason, the Corps made an internal decision earlier this year that they would no longer do that reprogramming, which jeopardizes much of the movements that we have along our waterways. This amendment is revenue-neutral. It doesn't add anything to the cost of the bill. But what it does is it takes money out of the general administration account, which actually saw an increase this year, moves it over into the general operations and maintenance section of the bill so that it allows us at least additional revenues to go and properly dredge our waterways.

Why is this important? Number one, it's a critical jobs issue. Because as we just saw a few weeks ago, prior to some of the record levels of flooding, Mr. Chairman, we saw they had to roll back, just in my region of the New Orleans area, they had to roll back some of the depth that they were allowed to transport on the Mississippi River. This cost about $1 million per vessel, added costs to move commerce throughout our country. Not only does that cost jobs, but it also increases the cost of goods for Americans who buy those products. But it also increases the costs of exporting. And it makes our American companies less competitive in the world.

And of course right now this Congress, the President, we're working together to try to reach trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. And I support more trade, free trade, the ability for more American employers to be able to sell their goods throughout the world, to actually create more jobs in America. But if we're going to do that, we've got to have the proper dredging going on to allow for that commerce along our waterways.

So if the Corps is allowed to go through with their policy of no more reprogramming, we know from what they've said, we know from what history's shown us that in years past they didn't have adequate amounts in their operations and maintenance for dredging, and so they have reprogrammed. Every year for years now that's been going on. And they've said this year they're no longer going to do it. So we would be sitting in a situation where we have to wait until some of our waterways are shut down or until you saw vessels grounded, like we just saw a few weeks ago just in the New Orleans area because of their lack of dredging. And then we would lose more jobs, we would lose our ability to export more.

So what we are saying is, there is additional money in this fund, in the general administration fund. We know this is a looming problem if we don't address it. So let's move it somewhere where it will actually help us create jobs and remain competitive. And hopefully as those trade agreements move through Congress, where we now have more opportunities if those trade agreements move through to trade even more and to create more jobs in America, then our ability to move those goods through our waterways would still be there. Because they won't if we are not properly dredging our waterways. So this amendment addresses that problem. And it's a problem we know is coming because the Corps themselves have said this is looming. So let's address it head on. Let's not wait until it's a crisis before we do something about it. That's why I bring the amendment, again an amendment with bipartisan support.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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