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Public Statements

Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the distinguished gentleman from Florida, the manager, for yielding the time. He knows how important this whole bill is to the Texas gulf region.

Mr. Speaker, let me say that there are many things we would like to fix in this bill, but I know that there are many Texans who are waiting for this bill to pass; and I was delighted to work with the Texas delegation to strengthen the bill by encouraging non-Federal entities to invest in their harbor maintenance and step in when the Army Corps of Engineers cannot. I am also delighted that we have addressed the question of dredging, and we should do it even better.

I thank the Rules Committee for consenting to my amendment that deals with consultation, with stakeholders and water districts, local city, county government. I know my local governments are waiting to have the Army Corps of Engineers actually listen to them as well as Historically Black Colleges and minority institutions.

I am also looking forward to making sure that the $20 billion in projects in the DeFazio amendment is included and not rejected.

And finally, I hope that we can work together, Mr. Speaker, on ensuring minority- and women-owned businesses and the billions of dollars that are used by the Army Corps of Engineers are actually getting the opportunity to work. I ask my colleagues to recognize the importance of this legislation.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chair, a water resources bill in 2013 is critical to the success of America, and crucial to our economic growth and job creation. The last water resources bill was signed into law six years ago, making this one long overdue. I would like to thank Mr. SHUSTER and Ranking Member RAHALL for their leadership in moving this legislation forward.

American international trade accounts for more than one quarter of our Gross Domestic Product. More than 99 percent of our overseas trade moves through America's seaports. Cargo moving through our seaports is responsible for more than 13 million American jobs and generates in excess of $200 billion annually in federal, state, and local tax revenues. We need to keep America's economic recovery moving forward by ensuring that when American workers make products, we can efficiently move them through our ports to overseas markets.

To that end, I hope my colleagues across the aisle will support the WRRDA bill so that our navigation channels and ports are operating at their optimal levels. Of all U.S. overseas exports, 99.4 percent are waterborne and go through ports.

For America to remain on top the global economy, we need to be competitive internationally so that global consumers increasingly purchase American-made goods.

This bill takes an important first step in addressing an issue of key concern to not only the Port of Houston and Galveston in Texas, but to all of our nations' ports, the collection and use of the federal Harbor Maintenance Tax. The WRRDA bill also includes numerous reforms to help meet the maritime transportation needs of our nation today and in the future.

America's public ports and their private sector partners plan to invest more than $46 billion in seaport infrastructure in the next five years. It is important that we pass this historic legislation by investing in America's transportation infrastructure. Maintaining America's link to the global marketplace by creating and maintaining modern and efficient seaport and waterway infrastructure will provide significant benefits to our nation's economic vitality, job growth, and international competitiveness, as well as create sizable tax revenues from cargo and trade activities.

Ports serve as America's gateway to the global economy. The nation's economic prosperity rests on the ability of containerized and bulk cargo arriving unimpeded at U.S. ports to support the ``just in time'' delivery system that underpins the manufacturing and retail sectors.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), ports, waterways, and vessels are part of an economic engine handling more than $700 billion in merchandise annually, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and an attack on this system could have a widespread impact on global shipping, international trade, and the global economy. The Port of Houston houses approximately 100 steamship lines offering services that link Houston with 1,053 ports in 203 countries. It is also home to a $15 billion petrochemical complex, the largest in the nation and second largest worldwide.

As a result, it is an ideal port for examining security practices in the maritime environment. At the Port of Houston, and other ports across the country, balancing security concerns with the need to facilitate the free flow of people and commerce remains an ongoing challenge for both the public and private sectors.

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank Chairman SHUSTER, Ranking Member RAHALL, Chairman GIBBS and Ranking Member BISHOP in working with the Texas Delegation on behalf of our constituents to strengthen the bill by encouraging non-federal entities to invest in their harbor maintenance and step in when the Army Corps of Engineers cannot.

This legislative provision particularly benefits ports like the Port of Houston which have invested substantial amounts of their own funds to complete critical infrastructure in order to provide for safe navigation of larger vessels, and to assure its terminals remain competitive in the world market. This success complements my efforts to secure necessary funding for harbor dredging in the FY' 2014 Energy and Water Appropriations Act.

Furthermore, I would like to thank the Committee leadership for supporting the Jackson Lee Amendment #9 on the roster and including the amendment En Bloc. This amendment provides that in making recommendations pursuant to Section 118 of the Act, the Secretary shall consult with key stakeholders, including State, county, and city governments, and, where applicable, State and local water districts, and in the case of recommendations concerning projects that substantially affect underrepresented communities the Secretary shall also consult with historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other minority-serving institutions.

Mr. Chair, as you are aware, it is an essential tool in our desire to improve the lives of low income and minority communities as well as the environment at large.

I am sure we will never forget the critical impact from Hurricane Sandy that crippled the Northeast area from Massachusetts to North Carolina. And not long before Hurricane Sandy, as we were working to learn how to prevent another Hurricane Katrina that crippled the great City of New Orleans. Our nation was still healing from Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Rita which crippled Houston, Texas.

Thereby highlighting the importance of not only giving greater attention to our underserved communities but also how we can help our citizens by educating them on the areas in which they live. As my colleagues are aware, a healthy environment sustains a productive and healthy community which fosters personal and economic growth.

Consulting with key stakeholders, including State, county, and city governments, and, where applicable, State and local water districts, and in the case of recommendations concerning projects that substantially affect underrepresented communities the Secretary shall also consult with historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other minority-serving institutions is imperative to protecting sustainability and growth of the community and environment.

The coordination with the aforementioned groups is vital to ensuring that economically disadvantaged and minority groups are not placed at a disadvantage when it comes to the environment and the continued preservation of their communities as we look to environmental and socioeconomic resources located within the project area and the general locations of the alternatives under consideration. Further, any issues of concern regarding the potential environmental or socioeconomic impacts of the project, including any issues that may substantially delay or prevent an agency from granting a permit or other approval that is needed for the project study.

Through education about the importance of environmental sustainability, we can promote a broader understanding of our rivers and harbors of the United States, and how citizens can improve their surroundings.

I want to also acknowledge and recognize Congressman DEFAZIO of Oregon for offering an amendment, in which I cosponsored that conditions the application of Section 103 of the bill on a reduction in the backlog of Corps of Engineers projects to less than $20 billion in construction costs. This amendment highlights the fact that it is a lack of funding not the environmental review process that has led to a backlog of authorized projects that are not being constructed. We have spent enough energy arguing over the budget and the National Environmental Policy (NEPA) streamlining, but not enough time in making the hard decisions and investments that are going to create economic growth and create jobs. I urge Congress to support Rep. DeFazio's amendment #2.

Mr. Chair, I believe the WRRDA bill would have been stronger with the inclusion of an amendment I offered to the Rules Committee that directs the Secretary of the Army to encourage the participation of minority- and women-owned businesses in such projects and requires the GAO to submit a report to Congress within 2 years on the participation of minority- and women-owned businesses in such projects.

I recognize the value of a diverse supplier base and its impact on the community and population at large. Therefore, I will work directly with the Secretary of the Army to establish an opportunity for Minority and Women Owned Businesses to work directly with the United States Army and the United States Corp of Engineers on specific projects that will ensure that the United States Army and the United States Corp of Engineers continues to creatively seek new supplier sources to fulfill the business opportunities at a number of Ports throughout our great nation and that minority and women owned businesses are given the opportunity to compete for these specific project business opportunities.

In closing, it is important to note that since the establishment of our Nation, our inland waterways and seaports have linked America directly to the global economy. This remains true today. Goods from all over the world reach our store shelves after arriving here through our ports, and products grown and made in the U.S.A. get to market overseas using our water transportation network.

The importance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mission to maintain our port and waterways infrastructure will only increase with time. Expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to be completed in 2014, allowing more and larger ships to call on America's ports. Our trade volume is expected to double within a decade, and to double again by 2030. We have to be ready for this expected growth in order to remain globally competitive.

The economic benefits of the Corps' mission are not limited to navigation and commerce. Levees, dams, reservoirs, and other measures within the Corps' mission scope provide flood protection for homes and businesses, protecting property and life.

Mr. Chair, I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 3080.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the gentleman from Oregon. I thank the sponsors of this legislation, Mr. Blumenauer, and I am delighted, along with Mr. DeFazio, to be a cosponsor.

Mr. Chairman, I really just want to emphasize the core values of Mr. DeFazio's as to what this amendment represents. The fact is there is a lack of funding. For those of us who are around ports, who are experiencing extreme flooding, there is a lack of funding that the environmental review process has nothing to do with, and it has not led to the backlog of authorized projects that are not being constructed. I support the timely delivery of water resources projects, but I have concerns as to whether the changes made in this bill in the name of streamlining will actually achieve that goal.

So I ask and urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this amendment, which will make the construction of already authorized projects a priority, which clearly had no problems with the environmental review process, and I would argue the fact that we should be encouraged to make this truly a jobs bill and support the DeFazio amendment.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, let me thank the ranking member and the chairman for including the Jackson Lee amendment in the en bloc amendments and indicate that this is a bill long overdue. Just to acknowledge, 209,000 jobs, 970 jobs in Texas, $16.7 billion in direct business, $14.1 billion in personal income.

My amendment adds to this legislation by providing for the Army Corps of Engineers under section 118 to consult with key stakeholders, including State, county, and city governments where applicable; State and local water districts; and in the case of recommendations concerning projects that substantially affect underrepresented communities, the Secretary shall also consult with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, tribal colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions.

Mr. Chairman, we are all reminded of the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy, of the tragedy of Tropical Storm Allison, Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Ike, and Hurricane Katrina. Universities and communities were impacted. The Army Corps of Engineers will be much better for the idea of being able to engage in those who are directly impacted.

Again, I ask my colleagues to support the amendment and support the underlying bill.

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