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Authorizing State or Local Government to Construct Levees on Certain Properties

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARNAHAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

With respect to the gentleman from North Dakota, there are some differences on this bill.

I rise to ask my colleagues to vote ``no'' on S. 2039, a bill that would increase the likelihood of flooding along the Missouri River that impacts several States, putting millions of people at risk. This legislation has not had a hearing in either the House or the Senate, nor has the public or impacted federal agencies had an opportunity to weigh in.

The bill goes against longstanding Federal policy that would still apply to the other 49 States--just not North Dakota. Once Federal funds are used to relocate communities and buildings out of floodplains, that land is meant to be dedicated and maintained in perpetuity for a use that is compatible with open space, recreational or wetlands management practices. This bill would stop that from happening in North Dakota, despite the fact that the issue was already addressed with specific allowances for communities in North Dakota in the recently signed into law Biggert-Waters Flood Reform Act of 2012. This bill that's on the floor today doesn't require local communities to reimburse the Federal Government and taxpayers for those previous buyouts.

Without hearings, it's hard to understand why S. 2039 is even necessary. Mr. Speaker, floods are the most frequently occurring natural disaster in this Nation. They happen in all 50 States. According to NOAA, there has been a steady increase in the U.S. of extreme flooding events. In fact, my home State of Missouri has had its fair share. In 2008, we faced a 200-year flood. In 1993, it was a 500-year flood. We're talking about incredibly abnormal levels of flooding that would only be exacerbated by this bill.

Last year, in St. Louis, we faced millions of dollars in losses because of weeks upon weeks of flooding. Again, it was a flood that the Army Corps of Engineers expects to occur every 10 to 25 years. River barge traffic, transporting billions in crops, were delayed. Riverboat casinos were closed for 6 to 8 weeks. Estimates of farmland crop damage was as high as $2 billion.

Missouri was not the only State to suffer. Kentucky saw $5 million in damage, and 1,300 homes around Memphis were damaged. Mississippi suffered hundreds of millions of dollars of damage. This devastation was not from rainfall in Missouri or in the other States affected. It was created by runoff a thousand miles north in North Dakota.

Increased rainfall in that State leads to flooding downstream in my State and others. This bill would allow levees to be created that would greatly increase the chances of that flooding. Rather than exempting North Dakota from the Stafford Act, we should be returning North Dakota to a natural state of marshes and wetlands along the river. These areas absorb significant amounts of water, slow runoff water and minimize the frequency that streams and rivers reach catastrophic flood levels.

Rather than protecting the environment and letting nature do what it is designed to do, this bill would set precedent for other States--increasing catastrophic flood levels across the country and devastating our Nation's businesses, farms and infrastructure.

Therefore, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. CARNAHAN. Mr. Speaker, again, I think we're seeing the complexity of this issue.

I just want to follow up on the gentleman from Oregon's remarks, that the groups that have weighed in on this bill, from taxpayer groups on the conservative side, to professional managers, to more progressive environmental groups have weighed in against this bill.

Under the previously agreed general leave request, I want to include letters and statements in opposition to S. 2039 from over 30 national and State organizations, including the Association of State Floodplain Managers, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the National Taxpayers Union, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Rivers, the National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, and Republicans for Environmental Protection--not a list of groups you often see on the same page, Mr. Speaker.


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