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St. Croix River Crossing Project Authorization Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. KIND. I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, this bridge is in my congressional district. I have been living and breathing this issue for the last 16 years.

Mr. Speaker, it's time to build a bridge. This is a bipartisan bill. It passed the Senate under unanimous consent. This legislation before us today merely exempts this river under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. It exempts this bridge so that the States of Wisconsin and Minnesota can move forward on this vital infrastructure project.

This is what we have today, Mr. Speaker. It's an 82-year-old lift bridge that's on its last life. Last summer the drawbridge was up for 10 days, prohibiting traffic from crossing because of high water. Every summer, every time a boat travels underneath this bridge, the lift bridge is lifted and we have a traffic jam miles long waiting for the bridge to open up again.

Those cars and trucks are spewing fumes, dropping oil. It is a major environmental problem, not to mention the safety concern that we have with this old lift bridge. It's on its final legs, and there's consensus that we have to build a new bridge.

This is what's recommended by the States of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

This is what the new bridge would look like. Yes, you will see right next to it is a coal-burning power plant on this so-called part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers. There is very little wild or scenic at this location, and that's exactly why it's being sited along this location, along with two major manufacturing plants.

This is another view of the bridge in relationship to the power plant just south of the Stillwater area, and this is actually the view from downtown Stillwater looking south along the river at this bridge. You can barely see it because of how it's designed to blend into the atmosphere.

Mr. Speaker, about 6 years ago I formed a process called ``resolve'' to get all the stakeholders at the table so that they could discuss and scrub every option and every alternative that was available. At the end of that 5-year negotiating process, 26 of the 27 stakeholders reached an agreement on what needed to be done.

The only holdout was the Sierra Club, and that's why we're having this big debate this evening. Even their proposal that came in at the eleventh hour would cost just as much, it would take another 10 years to build, and it would actually cut into the bluff on the Minnesota side, causing more environmental damage.

Even the local and regional offices of the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service had signed off on this bridge project.

I believe, as do most of the members of the Wisconsin and Minnesota delegation, as well as all four of the U.S. senators, that it's time to build this bridge. Both governors in Wisconsin and Minnesota want to build this bridge. The Departments of Transportation in both Wisconsin and Minnesota want to build this bridge. Ninety-two percent of the residents in Wisconsin want to see this bridge go forward. Eighty-eight percent of the residents in Minnesota in Representative Bachmann's district, where the bridge is also built, wants this bridge to go forward. It is time to build this bridge.

Every option, every alternative has been considered. This is where we keep coming back to time and time again. They looked at the cost. They looked at the design. They looked at the location. They looked at the environmental impact. They looked at the mitigation that can be done, and 26 of the 27 stakeholders reached this conclusion. It's unfortunate that the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is being used to bludgeon a major infrastructure project that will create jobs in this region when we need them the most, not only the short-term jobs in building this bridge but the long-term economic development and the explosion of economic growth and job creation that will result from the creation of this bridge.

Heading south, as my colleague from Minnesota had suggested, to hook up to the interstate highway, was not a viable option. Yet the town of Hudson that lies in between----

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Mr. KIND. Going south to hook up to the interstate bridge down there is not a viable option. That too is under study for expansion, given the increased traffic load that's going through it today. What this bridge that's being proposed considers is not only current traffic flow projections, but future traffic flow projections over the next 20 or 30 years.

I know infrastructure projects can be difficult. I know they can be contentious. But when so many people at the Federal, State, and local level of the agencies, as well as private entities, have been at the table for 5 years negotiating and trying to reach agreement on what bridge is necessary, when they do finally reach an agreement, that tells me it's time to build a bridge.

I want to thank the ranking member and the chair of the Transportation Committee for your support, as well as the chair of the subcommittee and the ranking member on the subcommittee for your support.

Transportation Secretary LaHood has been strongly in favor of moving this project forward. And I also want to thank the administrations, the Governors of both Wisconsin and Minnesota, for their interest and support for this project. One of the reasons it is being brought up at this time is because Governor Dayton from Minnesota says life is short and they need predictability and certainty on what projects are moving forward. He has been a strong advocate of this bridge, but we can't be delaying this and dragging this out for another 16 years, which is the likely outcome if the opposition figures out a way to bring this bill down. Enough is enough.

We have explored this. We have exhausted it, and we keep coming back to the same place as before--this bridge, which makes this legislation necessary, and I encourage my colleagues to support it so we all can move on with our lives.

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