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Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Chairman, I rise to speak in support of my amendment to restore $3 million in funding for the Watershed and Flood Protection program. Funding for this program was eliminated in fiscal year 2011, and no funding is provided in this bill.

My amendment provides $3 million for this program, just 10 percent of the $30 million provided in fiscal year 2010. I am taking funding from the agriculture buildings and facilities and rental payments to offset the cost of my amendment. Under my amendment, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, NRCS, would make the determination on where to direct the funds.

The Watershed and Flood Control Program provides for cooperation between the Federal Government, States, and localities to prevent erosion, flood water, and sediment damage. This is also a vital program to further the development, utilization, and disposal of water. It also helps to further the conservation and utilization of land and authorized watersheds.

Watershed improvements under this program are cost-shared between the Federal Government and local governments. I think that's a good thing. The program is being zeroed out despite the fact that we have an unfunded Federal commitment of more than $1 billion for 297 cost-shared projects in 39 States, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. These projects would help to reduce flood damage in 320 communities, improve agriculture water supply in 80 communities, and improve water quality in 132 streams.

Clearly, the national reach of this program is apparent from the numbers I just cited. In fact, I have a list of the 41 States and the Pacific islands that have been helped by this program, including Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas--the list goes on.

States and the local governments have worked together with NRCS, and they put up their own funds to construct flood control and water development projects. I don't think it is fair to leave these local governments holding the bag while the Federal Government just walks away from these commitments. Even shutting down projects of course costs money, and we can't leave them just halfway done on these projects. How can we just walk away from these projects before realizing the economic and environmental benefits they were designed to deliver?

I urge my colleagues to support funding for this important program. It affects 40 States plus Pacific islands.


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