|5:42 PM EDT||
Bob Ehrlich Jr., R-MD 2nd
Mr. EHRLICH. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, again, with great deference and respect to the gentleman from Maryland, Mr. Speaker, countries probably watching, tuning in today are saying ``S-turn, what S-turn?''
This S-turn is important in Tolchester Channel because it is part of the approach to the Canal, the C&D Canal. Ships change course five times within 3 miles, often beginning a new turn sometimes in the opposite direction before completing the previous turn. With ships approaching 1,000 feet in length, it is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate the channel, especially in winter, especially in poor weather with the wind and tide conditions.
The gentleman from Maryland talked about pilots and the pilots association. Well, the pilots association is on record. It has urged for a number of years that this channel S-turn be modified as soon as possible to avoid potential ship groundings.
As my friend from southern Maryland has stated on numerous occasions in this year's Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, Congress appropriated $6 million for the S-turn.
The project was also authorized in 1999 as part of the operations and maintenance program. In order to complete the job, we need $6.8 million dollars. The project is totally 100 percent Federally funded.
Now, we have talked about safety, and that is the primary reason to get this job done. We can reduce the likelihood of an accident. But the project also produces economic benefits, many economic benefits.
The economic consequences of a serious accident, for instance, were one to occur, would be significant, something we certainly do not want to visit. Accordingly, the avoidance of such an accident, while not easily quantifiable, contains economic benefits.
Moreover, Mr. Chairman, since this project was approved by the Corps and authorized by this Congress, the Corps has reserved the environmental assessment. In fact, the Corps is finishing the environmental assessment for the project. It will be circulated in July and approved in settlement or October at or near the beginning of fiscal year 2001.
My friend and colleague from Maryland is someone for whom I have great respect on these issues. We disagree from time to time when it comes to dredging issues. But the majority of the Maryland delegation is letting this House know that this is an important project for the economic engine, which is the Port of Baltimore, the economic engine that drives the State of Maryland.
Congress recognized this fact by appropriating these funds last year, and all we are asking this House to do is to complete the job. Accordingly, I urge all of my colleagues to oppose the Gilchrest amendment.