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Department of Defense Appropriations Act - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LEAHY. I am pleased to work with Senator Lautenberg on this issue. New Jersey, New York, and other States throughout the region were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. In particular, flood-prone areas and the coastline experienced severe damage. That is why the Supplemental Appropriations bill includes funding and language to improve damaged projects, construct new projects to prevent future damage, and to authorize projects in the study phase for construction, provided that the Corps of Engineers determines doing so would cost-effectively reduce flood and storm damage risks.

Mr. LAUTENBERG. Requiring the Corps of Engineers to determine whether potential projects in affected areas can cost-effectively reduce flood and storm damage risks before receiving construction authorization is a valuable goal. However, Hurricane Sandy changed the conditions of many projects, which could increase the final cost of those projects. Also, many homes and businesses in flood-prone areas were destroyed. This could lead to a decrease in the value of property protected by proposed projects. Therefore, the combined impact of increased project costs and a reduction in the value of property that would be protected by planned flood control infrastructure could result in a calculation that shows a higher project cost with lower economic benefits. Does the Senator agree that the language regarding the cost-effectiveness of flood and storm damage efforts under consideration for construction authorization is not intended to disqualify projects that could have increased costs and decreased economic benefits as a result of Hurricane Sandy?

Mr. LEAHY. Yes. The language does not intend for the Corps of Engineers to disqualify studies under consideration for construction authorization based on increased costs and decreased economic benefits as a result of Hurricane Sandy. In addition, the term ``cost-effectiveness'' does not refer to the benefit to cost ratio typically used by the Corps of Engineers.

Mr. LAUTENBERG. I thank Senator Leahy, along with Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, who has jurisdiction over the Corps, for their work on this vital bill, which would help states affected by Hurricane Sandy recover and prepare for future storms. It includes important language to allow projects in the study phase to be constructed and does not intend to disqualify projects with increased costs and decreased economic benefits as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Given that this process is different than standard practice, does the Senator agree that the Corps of Engineers should submit a report to Congress to explain the process that will be implemented?

Mr. LEAHY. Yes. The Corps is directed to submit a report to the Committee on Appropriations on its proposed process for determining cost-effectiveness, in accordance with the aforementioned intentions, no later than 45 days following enactment of this Act.

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Mr. LEVIN. In addition to response, recovery and mitigation related to Hurricane Sandy damage, I also understand this bill provides funds to help respond to other natural disasters. I would ask the manager of the bill, Senator Leahy, is that correct?

Mr. LEAHY. Yes, that is correct. The Supplemental Appropriations bill includes some funding related to natural disasters other than Hurricane Sandy.

Mr. LEVIN. Would the near-historic low water levels of the Great Lakes caused by drought and mild winters be considered a natural disaster?

Mr. LEAHY. The bill does not define ``natural disaster,'' but the near record water level lows in the Great Lakes caused by drought and unusually warm weather leading to increased evaporation are certainly contributing to significant drought-like consequences at Great Lakes ports and harbors.

Mr. LEVIN. I thank the Senator. I am pleased the bill includes $821 million to dredge federal navigation channels and repair damage to Corps projects nationwide related to natural disasters. Would federally-authorized Great Lakes harbors and channels be eligible for that funding?

Mr. LEAHY. Yes. The funding is tied to estimates of natural disaster damages relayed to Congress by the Corps, however, the funding is not earmarked to specific projects. The Corps utilizes this funding to restore essential project functions based on the Corps' priority of the damages. In that context, Great Lakes ports and harbors would be eligible for the funding.

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