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Chairman Carper’s Opening Statement: Hearing on WRDA 2024 Development (Release)

July 20, 2023   U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — On July 20, 2023, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing to consider stakeholder views for the development of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2024.


Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“As you will recall, the biennial WRDA legislation is an opportunity for us to once again consider the policies, projects, and programs of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).


“Our most recent WRDA legislation passed the Senate in 2022 with a vote of 93-1 and became the engine that carried the annual defense authorization bill to President Biden’s desk. That is a level of bipartisanship not often seen in Congress these days.


“Today, in that same bipartisan spirit, we start WRDA 2024 by hearing from several stakeholders who work closely with the Corps to carry out that agency’s mission. As we know, the Corps collaborates with non-federal sponsors and stakeholders, including states and tribes, industry associations, and local organizations. These partnerships maximize the benefits of Corps studies and projects and ensure that projects address community needs.


“As many on this committee have heard me say, everything I do, I know I can do better. Today, I’m particularly interested in hearing from our witnesses about their experiences and perspectives on working with the Corps: what is going well and where there are opportunities for improvement. 


“As we begin the WRDA process with this hearing, I can’t overstate the importance of collaboration between the Corps and its non-federal partners. These partnerships are essential, especially as our nation continues to experience increasingly powerful storms, more devastating floods, and more intense and frequent droughts due to climate change.


“For example, just last week, we witnessed catastrophic flooding in Vermont and Upstate New York that caused thousands of people to lose their homes and businesses. In the first half of 2023, the federal government responded to more than 30 extreme weather events. That is staggering when we consider that just 30 years ago we expected to respond to one or two major federal disasters per year.

“As we will discuss today, Corps’ projects serve as our primary line of defense against these now all-too-frequent events and help protect vulnerable communities as well as our economy.


“The Corps' work to enhance and restore our nation's coastlines demonstrates how the agency's mission is critical in the fight against climate change. Increasingly powerful storms lead to the erosion of beaches, which make coastal communities more vulnerable to flooding. The Corps safeguards coastal towns from flooding by restoring, or ‘nourishing,’ beaches.


“Coastal restoration not only helps to stabilize beaches but also prevents saltwater intrusion into inland areas, including valuable agricultural lands. Agriculture, along with tourism, are primary industries in Delaware and in many other states. That is a major reason why, like so many other coastal states, we are so grateful to the Corps for its restoration of the entire Atlantic Ocean coastline in Delaware—a massive project that was completed just a few weeks ago. This morning, we will hear more about work to restore our bay beaches from Tony Pratt.


“It’s not just coastal towns that need protection from flooding. Last year, a spring blizzard hit North Dakota, leading to the worst flooding of the Red River in more than a decade. That flooding resulted in considerable damage to homes, businesses, and agricultural fields. The incident could have been even more devastating if not for the Corps’ flood mitigation measures, like the Fargo-Moorhead project, which we are going to hear about today. 


“And, the Corps’ vital work is not limited to protecting against extreme weather events. The agency and its partners also maintain our nation’s inland waterways and the navigation systems for our ports, which play a critical role in keeping our nation’s economy moving. In fact, 99 percent of our overseas trade moves through channels that the Corps maintains.


“With that in mind, we are going to hear today from the Port of Los Angeles, which is the largest port in the United States, handling some 20 percent of all incoming cargo shipments to our country. 


“We are also going to hear about the Upper Ohio Navigation Project. Thanks to receiving more than $857 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this project is repairing locks on the Ohio River, which facilitate commerce and support the economies of Ohio and Pennsylvania. 


“Last Congress, through critical funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and WRDA authorizations, we made historic progress in advancing the Corps’ ability to support infrastructure that is vital to commerce and job creation. WRDA empowered the Corps to better account for climate change, support disadvantaged communities, and improve infrastructure while also protecting our environment.

“Having said that, we still have more work to do. Today’s hearing will allow us to assess the Corps’ progress from prior WRDAs. It will also allow us to determine where and how Congress can assist the Corps with our water resources needs in WRDA 2024.


“Let me close by saying that we look forward to hearing testimony from our witnesses today as our committee sets priorities for the next authorization.”