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Mr. NELSON. Madam President, I rise to speak in support of the Water Resources Development Act. I congratulate Senator Boxer and Senator Vitter for showing how two Senators of opposite parties can work together, which is something that is sorely needed around here. I thank them for clearing the amendment Senator Blunt and I offered on resilient construction, to study the need to improve our infrastructure in order to withstand extreme weather conditions and events such as hurricanes.
The last time we passed a water bill was back in 2007. The gridlock the American people are seeing so much of now is part of what has delayed us passing a new water bill--and the controversy over earmarks. But all of this inaction since 2007 puts our ports, beaches, and environmental restoration projects such as the Everglades restoration in jeopardy.
This water bill is going to authorize new flood protection, navigation, and specific restoration projects which are so important to our State of Florida, such as Everglades restoration. Also this bill is going to authorize important updates to our Nation's ports. Our ports obviously are a main part of the economic engine of this country. All of these projects are now in this bill and will be able to proceed.
This Senate water bill means good news for Florida's beaches, waterways, ports, and the Everglades. Rather than talk about the specific projects, I want to say Congress made a promise 13 years ago to restore the Everglades and this bill puts us on the path to finally fulfilling that promise and restoring as much of that extraordinary ecosystem known as the Everglades as it could be in the way Mother Nature designed it.
I also want to talk about another part of this bill that is extremely important to the State of Florida. People think California has the biggest coastline. Not so; Florida's coastline is much larger. Actually, Alaska's coastline is the longest, but when it comes to a coastline with beaches, almost all of Florida's coastline is beaches. So beach renourishment is exceptionally important to us. It is important to our economy, with all of our tourism that comes to Florida. It is important to our environment. Beach restoration saves lives, mitigates property damage, and it keeps the recovery costs down.
Beach renourishment is one of the reasons I support the bill. I come from a State that has more beaches than any other State, so naturally our beaches are of critical importance to us. It is important not only from an environmental standpoint but also from an economic and tourism standpoint.
There is something known as the lateral drift, which is from north to south. It takes sand off the beach and pushes it south. When we have a cut in the beach--such as an inlet--that goes into a port, it all the more aggravates beach erosion. When the storm comes, watch out, because the beach can completely disappear.
So I strongly oppose any efforts to cut the funding of beach renourishment. This is about protecting our communities from natural disasters. These investments save lives, mitigate property damage, and keep recovery costs down.
For every $1 that is spent on shoreline protection, we see a return of $4. In Florida, we have several coastal communities anxiously waiting for the reauthorization of beach renourishment programs because they are so vulnerable to erosion caused by hurricanes and the rise of the sea level. This is pretty simple for us. We have to protect coastal communities from flooding and storms by adding sand to the beach.
I will continue to try to prevent any kind of cut that we seek. As a matter of fact, we are going to see a Coburn amendment that is going to try to take money out of the beach renourishment. I will urge my colleagues to vote no on that Coburn amendment.
Before I conclude, I wish to talk about a very disturbing circumstance which occurred about a week ago in the Turks and Caicos.
There was an arrest and jailing of two older American tourists on ammunition charges at the Turks and Caicos Islands Airport. These two Americans were arrested on back-to-back days.
The first person arrested was a 60-year-old businesswoman from Texas, and that was on April 25. The second person arrested was an 80-year-old retired neurosurgeon from Florida, and that was the next day. Both were on vacation in the Turks and Caicos and arrested at the airport. The reason they spent days in jail is because after their luggage was checked--and supposedly examined by the authorities--they found a single bullet in the luggage.
Does that sound suspicious? I found it to be even more suspicious when I heard that both of the American tourists--who were on vacation--have said adamantly that they had no ammunition and, therefore, had no way of putting a bullet in their luggage.
It sounded even more suspicious when I was told that after they were arrested and hauled off to jail, they had to pay $4,000 cash for bail in order to get out of jail and to return home.
The Senator from Texas, Mr. Cruz, and I sent a letter to the Charge d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas--which includes the Turks and Caicos--to ask them to investigate this matter. We want to know if there have been similar cases this year to make American tourists a target under a similar kind of scheme. We are asking him to examine this so he knows we are very concerned on behalf of our constituents.
In essence, we want to know whether this was a shakedown operation or legitimate. The fact that this happened on two successive days with a single bullet found in the luggage of American tourists gets to be awfully suspicious.
I ask unanimous consent that our letter be printed in the Record.
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