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Hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee - Legislative Hearing on the "Water Resources Development Act of 2012"

Hearing

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

I would like to start by commending you, Madam Chairman, for your leadership and dedication to addressing the nation's infrastructure challenges.

Everyone knows that the Chairman and I don't always see eye to eye, but infrastructure is one of the issues that we do agree on. As a result, the Chairman and I have formed a strong partnership to develop comprehensive, bipartisan infrastructure legislation. Most recently, we came together with our colleagues to pass a highway bill despite numerous challenges. Not everyone thought we could get it done, but we proved them wrong.

Now, this Committee is turning its attention to the nation's water resources infrastructure. Like other types of infrastructure, water resources infrastructure provides a good return on our investment in the form of economic benefits, job creation, and helping provide protection from flooding and other natural disasters.

A Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) authorizes studies, projects, and policy changes to address the nation's pressing water resources challenges. Ideally, Congress should pass a WRDA bill every two years. Unfortunately, WRDA was last enacted in November 2007: five years ago. Since then, not only have our nation's water resources policy issues grown exponentially, but there are numerous studies and projects across the country awaiting Congressional authorization.

In my home state of Oklahoma, we have our own share of water resources challenges. These run the gamut from flood control to inland navigation to water supply. Oklahoma's, and the nation's, water resources issues, studies and projects cannot afford to be kept waiting due to Congressional inaction.

So, I am pleased that the Committee is taking a critical step towards the development of the next WRDA bill by having today's legislative hearing on the Chairman's draft. I would like to thank our witnesses for testifying before us this morning.

I believe that this draft is a good start. Chairman Boxer is to be commended for producing a draft; as many of us know, often putting pen to paper and kick-starting this process can be challenging. However, as with any legislative proposal, there are things that I like, there are things that need to be improved, and there are things that I have serious concerns with. Our witnesses are here today to provide their feedback on the draft in order to inform our thinking on how to best address the nation's water resources challenges. I hope our witnesses will be candid in their commentary and point out anything they feel was left of out of the draft. With the valuable information gained from this hearing, I expect that the Committee's work on this bill will continue into next year.

Unfortunately, this year's election did not go as I would have liked. I am sure the Chairman disagrees with me on this. However, infrastructure advocates can rest assured that they have a strong ally in my friend, Senator Vitter, who will become Ranking Member of this Committee next year. I am confident that he and the Chairman will continue the tradition of bipartisanship as they work to address the nation's infrastructure challenges. And, I will continue to play a pivotal role as a senior member of this Committee.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing the witnesses' testimony.


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