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Department of Defense Appropriations Act - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. REED. Mr. President, I rise in support of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill for Hurricane Sandy. This is a critically important bill for the States that were affected by this storm--not only New York and New Jersey, which saw almost unimaginable devastation and loss of life, but States like my home State of Rhode Island, which experienced significant damage.

There has been a long tradition in the Senate in working together to respond to major disasters in our States. The Appropriations Committee has been an important venue for the kind of bipartisan cooperation that has made these efforts possible. In large part that has been the result of the efforts of members like our late-Chairman Dan Inouye who created, by his example, an environment of comity and respect. That has been the unique ethos of our committee. Under the leadership of our new chairwoman, Senator Mikulski, it will continue.

As chairman of the Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, I also want to take a moment to talk about the $1.45 billion included in the bill for environmental recovery and restoration needs.

We must fund recovery efforts and rebuild public facilities that were damaged. But we also need to look ahead to projects that will allow our communities and our public lands to withstand future storms and natural disasters. I am pleased that the Interior section of this bill addresses both needs.

The bill contains $435 million in essential funding to rebuild national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, and other public facilities damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

I particularly want to call attention to the $348 million included to fund immediate construction needs at more than 25 Park Service units that were damaged during the storm. These funds will help the Park Service take necessary steps to reopen a number of heavily visited units to the public--including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which suffered extensive damage during the storm.

We need to get this work started now so that we can get these parks reopened. And because the need is so great--the amount requested by the President is nearly five times the annual line-item construction budget--it's imperative that we give the service the funds in this supplemental as soon as possible.

I also want to note that the bill also provides $78 million for immediate reconstruction and recovery needs for the more than 30 wildlife refuges that also sustained tremendous damage during the storm.

These funds will be used for emergency stabilization needs, to replace or reconstruct facilities, roads, and trails, and to fund improvements needed to lessen anticipated damage from future storms.

The bill also provides $810 million for the EPA State Revolving Fund programs, including $700 million for clean water needs and $110 million for drinking water needs, for States that faced the greatest impact from Hurricane Sandy. These funds will complement funds from other Federal agencies and provide targeted funding to upgrade water infrastructure to protect against future flooding, storm damage, and other natural disasters.

Already, there is a huge estimated need for these funds. In fact, EPA estimates that there are approximately 700 drinking water and wastewater facilities in States affected by Sandy that need to make infrastructure upgrades that will make them less susceptible to flooding and extreme weather events.

This is exactly the kind of work that needs to be undertaken so that we can get ahead of the curve and prepare for the next storm or natural disaster. I understand that there are some who believe that some of these investments do not constitute an emergency, but as those who lived in the path of storms from Andrew to Katrina to Sandy can attest, there is no time to waste or wait. I hope that this chamber can move swiftly to pass this supplemental appropriations bill.

I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.

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