5:32 PM EDT
Steny Hoyer, D-MD 5th

Mr. HOYER. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, very quickly, this is about dredging. It is contrary to the letter that all of us signed receiving it as a State project in 1986. No doubt about it. This was not perceived by any of the delegation to be a local project. It was a Statewide project, which is why all eight Members of the delegation signed.

In the letter that I reference, we also strongly supported and urged the inclusion of the straightening of the S-turn, the Tolchester Channel. Why did we do that? July 14, 1998, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. GILCHREST) says he has talked to the Coast Guard. Now, with all due respect to the gentleman, until 4 hours ago, I did not know of any of this. My office was not talked to. I got no information. I did not know about his conversations with the Coast Guard. I do not think the committee

knew about his conversations with the Coast Guard. Maybe they did.

But at any event, let me read a letter, 26 August 1994, signed by Rear Admiral Eckart of the United States Coast Guard, Commander of the Fifth Coast Guard District. I quote a part of that, Mr. Chairman. ``The S-turn in Tolchester Channel presents one of the most difficult navigational challenges to a large ship within the Fifth Coast Guard District, not just within Maryland, not just within the Chesapeake Bay, but within the entire district.'' Yes safety is going to be raised.

Now, July 14, 1998, some 2 years later, this is a Vice Admiral, United States Coast Guard, then Commander, I am not sure whether he is still Commander of the Fifth Coast Guard District. A letter referring to the Tolchester Channel. ``With increases to vessel size, the severity of the turns have caused difficulty with maneuvering. The Coast Guard would prefer to be proactive in preventing any potential serious mishaps. The removal of the S-curve in the Tolchester Channel would be a significant

step.''

Now, I do not have a subsequent letter from the Coast Guard saying, no, we did not mean that. Apparently they have had a personal conversation with the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. GILCHREST) who claims this is in his district. Technically I suppose, if one surrounds waterways, they are in one's district, but the fact of the matter is I would again reiterate this is perceived by the State legislature, by the governor, and by the majority of our delegation as an issue of our State and of

our port.

Mr. Chairman, the 1996 water bill directs the Corps to expedite review of potential straightening of the channel, Tolchester Channel S-turn. It came out of a committee of which the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. GILCHREST) was a member.

If determined to be feasible and necessary for safe and efficient navigation, and I have just read my colleagues two letters of the Coast Guard that indicated it was necessary for the safe and efficient movement of vessels through this channel, to implement such straightening as part of the project maintenance.

Now, earlier the gentleman said he was not opposed to maintenance dredging. Now, I am not sure what maintenance dredging he refers to, but the fact of the matter is he tried by saying that, if we had ships going through, then children were going to drown. I do not know that any children had drowned, and that would be a serious problem we would have to protect against, apparently in anticipation of the safety argument that somehow making the water flow faster could be dangerous. I have not heard

the oyster problem before, but we ought to look at that problem as well.

But the fact of the matter is this is essential. In two letters from the Coast Guard, I do not have a more recent letter telling me they were wrong, the 1994 and 1998 letters say it is a safety issue. It is a problem. It is not only a problem, it is the worst problem in the Fifth Coast Guard District. That is why they believe this project is absolutely critical.

I know the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. EHRLICH) is going to speak on this. We have a bipartisan position on this issue, I think. In fact, the committee has included this money at the request of the administration, this is not an add-on project, this has been a planned project that is moving ahead to provide for safer navigation. It is essential.

We would ask our colleagues to reject this amendment which, again, is designed to stop dredging. I understand that that is the objective of the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. GILCHREST). I agree with him to stop dredging if it is entirely harmful. But until that finding is made, then we need to proceed to make sure, A, the economic viability of the port and, B, directly related to that the safety of the vessels using the channels that access and egresses the port of Baltimore.