I congratulate Chairman Oberstar, Ranking Member Mica, and the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, Mr. Baker, for your work in reaching agreement on this vital infrastructure investment bill for the nation’s water resources needs.
Madam Speaker, all of us assembled here today understand the magnitude of this moment. The clock is working against the infrastructure of our country.
The seven years we have waited to enact a Water Resources Development Bill have lead to significant increases in costs to adequately address the nation’s deteriorating water resources and flood control infrastructure.
As such, I am delighted that we, as conferees, have come to an agreement on the issues of independent review, environmental infrastructure, and individual projects that have, up until now, prevented us from crafting a final conference report.
We do right by this country when we invest in its infrastructure.
I agree with the Chairman that enactment of a Water Resources bill this year is critical to economic prosperity, job creation, protection of the environment, and public safety.
Since Congress last passed a Water Resources Development Act, we have seen Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastate the Gulf Coast and my home state of Texas, flooding cities, damaging economies and businesses, and threatening public health.
No water resources bill has been enacted since the year 2000 – the entire term of the current administration.
And while I am fully aware of the veto threat that this administration has issued on the conference report, I want to remind my colleagues that since the start of the Iraq conflict in 2003, nearly $42 billion has been appropriated at the request of the Administration for Iraqi reconstruction—one third of which, or $14 billion, has gone towards Iraqi economic infrastructure.
So, Madam Speaker, I would dare say that if this level of attention is adequate for Iraqi water and road infrastructure, my state, as well as my constituents who are constantly beleaguered by outdated flood protection are as equally deserving of the attention afforded by H.R. 1495.
I deeply regret that the Administration has decided to turn its back on a bill that will put Americans to work with good paying jobs, protect lives and property, and bolster our nation’s infrastructure.
A recent report by the Texas Section of Civil Engineers assessed my state’s infrastructure and rendered a dismal, cumulative grade of below average.
The assessment of the state’s flood control faired even worse, with the state receiving a failing grade of D minus.
Over the past decade, Texas has experienced 15 federally declared disasters, most involving flooding. Moreover, Texas leads the nation in terms of dollars paid for flood claims, second only to the State of Louisiana.
The population of Texas is expected to double in the next 30 to 40 years. Development in and near floodplains can be expected to increase, as developers continue to build near the State’s rivers, lakes, and coastline.
In my district the Dallas Floodway accepts 1,600 square miles of Trinity River watershed runoff and safely moves the floodwaters through the City of Dallas by virtue of levees that form both sides of the 2,000-foot wide floodway.
The Floodway levees protect the downtown Dallas vicinity from a potential flood damage loss to properties and infrastructure of $8 billion or more.
The 23 miles of levees for the Dallas Floodway were originally constructed by local interests in 1932 and reconstructed by the Corps in 1960.
Since 1960, the upstream watershed has experienced exploding population growth that was not expected, which has significantly increased runoff, overwhelmed our antiquated interior drainage pumps, and greatly reduced the flood protection afforded by the Dallas Floodway levees.
My district’s flood control needs are great, and like other communities across the nation, they are anxiously anticipating the resumption of a predictable, consistent, and two-year WRDA cycle.
I am glad our work here today brings us one step closer to that reality.
The product before us authorizes a number of studies and projects, particularly for the restoration of coastal Louisiana, the restoration of the Florida Everglades, and the restoration of the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway System.
Again Madam Speaker, we do right by this country when we invest in its infrastructure. Communities across the country have been waiting seven long years to begin their noteworthy flood control and water infrastructure projects.
I am pleased that we have been able to put our heads together and once and for all advance this vitally important and long overdue legislation for the American people.
I want to extend my thanks to the bipartisan committee leadership of both chambers and most especially the efforts of our dedicated staff persons who have spent countless hours in crafting the conference report.
I strongly urge my colleagues to vote yes on the conference report to H.R. 1495. The time to act is now.
Thank you Madam Speaker and I yield back the balance of my time.
Speech from http://www.house.gov/list/speech/tx30_johnson/morenews/08012007stat1.html, August 28, 2007.