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Public Statements

Authorizing Funds for Emergency Relief Projects

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GARDNER. I thank the gentleman from Wisconsin and appreciate his leadership on this important matter as we try to bring relief to the people of Colorado who have suffered as a result of the floods that began on September 11.

I also thank the gentlelady from the District of Columbia for her leadership on this issue as well and for her support of the underlying measure.

Thanks to Chairman Shuster and the Appropriations Committee as well, Chairman Rogers, for supporting and making sure that this legislation moves to the floor as expeditiously as it has.

To the gentlelady from the District of Columbia, I would note that I voted for the $17 billion HAL ROGERS amendment on Sandy, making sure that we had emergency funding through FEMA for all victims of that atrocious storm and disaster. But I also tried to make sure that we had funding for another disaster that had happened in Colorado and the western United States, dealing with wildfires and forest fires.

In fact, I tried to amend the legislation with disaster assistance for Colorado that was rejected and was not allowed to go into the bill, and ultimately, I made a decision based on the fact that we were treating disasters differently. But it's important to know that we do come together for disaster assistance, to make sure that we take care of people who have been harmed around this country.

On September 11, just a couple weeks ago, a flood began that destroyed nearly 2,000 homes and damaged over 17,000 homes. Early reports indicate that almost 25 percent of the buildings at the University of Colorado received some kind of damage.

I have toured with other members of the Colorado congressional delegation--Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Coffman, Mr. POLIS, our two Senators, Senator MARK UDALL and Senator BENNETT, as well as Governor Hickenlooper--as we have witnessed firsthand, both on the ground and from the air, the devastation that has taken place.

And for people who are rebuilding lives and rebuilding homes or rebuilding businesses that were lost, today this body takes a great step forward in providing at least one key component of certainty. And that certainty comes into those thoroughfares that allow them to get to and from school, to and from work, and farmers to get their goods to market.

Our transportation system was dramatically impacted by the floods. There were 200 line miles of highway affected. It's as if somebody had made a sand castle, built it, and a wave came and washed it away, a crumpled-up piece of paper, destroying hundreds of miles of Colorado highway. Fifty bridges were wiped out.

The Colorado Department of Transportation initially estimated that between $300 million and $500 million worth of damage was done to our highway system and has now settled on a figure closer to $475 million. I commend the Federal Highway Administration, who swiftly released $35 million to help with the cost of the most immediate repairs; but there must be more that is done.

And so, Mr. Speaker, I thank this body for its support of H.R. 3174, legislation that, with a ``yes'' vote, will not automatically lift the cap for other States that experience severe weather events, but allows the Secretary of Transportation to make that determination.

As the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Petri) noted, this is not a new appropriation. There is no new spending, but it gives flexibility to the Department of Transportation to make decisions that will help the people who have suffered in Colorado.

And as I mentioned, the cap was also raised to $500 million for responses in other areas and other hurricanes--whether it's hurricanes, floods, or other events this country will face. We have an opportunity to help the people of Colorado, the people of this country get back on their feet. And I appreciate the support that this body has given this bill today.

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