U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today participated in the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing, "Oversight Hearing on Implementation of Corps of Engineers Water Resources Policies." The hearing was held in preparation for a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Senator Lautenberg's remarks focused on areas of concern highlighted by Superstorm Sandy and the storm's impact on clean water infrastructure, coastlines, ports, and flood-prone communities in New Jersey.
The following are Senator Lautenberg's prepared remarks:
"The Water Resources Development Act is about strengthening our water infrastructure, and nowhere have we seen a clearer reminder of the need to improve our water infrastructure than in my state of New Jersey.
"Since Superstorm Sandy hit our shores, we have seen the catastrophic damage that can be caused when infrastructure is unprepared for the force of an extreme weather event. The storm sounded the alarm that the federal government must invest in infrastructure to recover from the storm and rebuild stronger so we are prepared for the next storm. That's why the Sandy supplemental appropriations law I helped write contains funding to rebuild and expand Army Corps beach projects and other infrastructure projects critical to protecting communities.
"But let's be clear: our changing climate means severe storms will become more and more common, and that means a new WRDA bill must make it permanent policy to build these infrastructure projects stronger than before.
"During Sandy, New Jersey also saw the limits of our outdated water infrastructure when two water treatment facilities were damaged, with one plant leaking millions of gallons of sewage into Newark Bay. So we need smart financing programs to ensure our clean water infrastructure is modern and effective.
"Sandy also damaged the Port of New York and New Jersey, which is the largest port on the East Coast and serves more than one-third of the country. More than 270,000 jobs depend on this port. But the majority of the port's terminals were shut down for more than a week because of power outages, structural damage, and hazards in the water that could impair ships.
"We need to make sure our ports are prepared for future extreme weather events so our commerce and economy are not put at risk. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is critical to maintaining and repairing our ports. We need to ensure the strength of this fund, but we must do so in a responsible way that does not compromise the Army Corps' flood control projects.
"I look forward to working with you, Madam Chairman, and our new Ranking Member, Senator Vitter, on a new WRDA bill that can take the important next steps to modernize our infrastructure, strengthen our ports, and protect our communities."