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Water Resources Development Act of 2013 - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. NELSON. Madam President, indeed I want to talk about this amendment and why it is a good thing, but I first want to compliment the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, who is not seated at her desk in the Chamber, but she is seated as the Presiding Officer.

I want the chairman of that committee to know that she must be Merlin the Magician because in rapid fashion she brings the bill out of her committee and to the floor, along with her ranking member, the Senator from Louisiana, Mr. VITTER. This water bill is so important to the future of this country, and it is so important to infrastructure in this country. I commend the chairman and the ranking member for the rapidity with which they have worn out the leadership in order to get the leadership's attention to bring it to the floor.

What Senator Blunt and I are sponsoring is common sense. Anybody who has been through a hurricane, tornado, or any other kind of natural disaster knows what new building codes have done. There is a fancy new term now called "resilient construction,'' and the resilient construction is making it more resilient in withstanding a natural disaster.

I will never forget flying in a National Guard helicopter after a monster hurricane in 1982--Hurricane Andrew--that hit a relatively unpopulated part of Miami-Dade County, the southern end, and it ended up being a $20 billion-insurance-loss storm. Had it turned 1 degree to the north and drawn a line on northern Dade County-Southern Broward County--in other words, north Miami and south Fort Lauderdale--it would have been, in 1992 dollars, a $50 billion-insurance-loss storm. That would have taken down every insurance company that was doing business in the path of the storm.

We had that warning, and we saw the results of the lack of attention to resilient construction--in other words, the building codes.

As I flew over that area of Homestead, FL, in the National Guard helicopter, everything was wiped out in homeowner areas, completely wiped out. They were gone. They were a bunch of sticks. As a matter of fact, the trees were sticks. There were no leaves and limbs left. In downtown Homestead, there were two things that were left standing: one was the bank, and the other one was an old Florida cracker house built back in the old days when they built to withstand hurricanes.

I will never forget going through and meeting the head of Habitat for Humanity. He told us stories about how he had a ``Habitat for Humanity'' sign on his briefcase, and when he walked through the airport, people would come up and say: Oh, you are with Habitat. I want you to know that all of your homes survived.

They would ask him: How did your homes survive?

He would answer and say: Inexperience.

They would say: Inexperience? What do you mean?

He would say: Well, since our homes are built by volunteers, instead of driving 2 nails, they would drive 10 nails.

This is resilient construction--extra straps on the rafters, building to the codes that will withstand the wind.

Senator Blunt was talking about some of his constituents in Missouri and this tornado. Well, my wife Grace and I were in our condominium in Orlando, and all of a sudden--did you know that the new smartphones beep when there is a national weather warning, and you pick up--I mean, I haven't turned it on, and it will beep anyway. It says: Severe weather warning. A tornado is en route. Take cover. And I look at our condo, and it has all these glass windows, and I am thinking, what inner room can I go in? Since we have a two-story, what I decided to do was go into the elevator and put it down to the bottom floor as a place for taking cover. In Missouri, there are plenty of basements that are specifically built for the purpose of taking cover. This is what we want the construction industry to do.

What the Senator from Missouri and I are doing is saying to the National Academy of Sciences: We want you to come up with additional studies on how our people can save lives and save property with resilient construction. That is simply what this amendment does.

I would conclude by saying, my goodness, do we need another reminder of Katrina? Remember, the Katrina problem was not the wind; the Katrina problem was the wind on the back side coming across Lake Pontchartrain that caused the water to rise. The levees weren't there, and it breached the levees, and that became a multiple hundreds of billions of dollars storm. We should have learned our lessons there. Sometimes resilient construction is not only about people's homes, but it is about dikes and levees as well.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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