|2:20 PM EDT||
John Tierney, D-MA 6th
Mr. TIERNEY. Mr. Chairman, this amendment is relatively straightforward. It ensures that two important Army Corps of Engineers accounts--construction and operation maintenance--be funded at last year's levels. I certainly understand that the committee was challenged by the allocation it was allotted, and that was $1 billion below fiscal year 2011 and nearly $6 billion less than the President's request.
Despite that, I appreciate that Chairman Frelinghuysen has added $195 million to the President's budget request for the Army Corps of Engineers. He is to be commended for that. Unfortunately, I think that Congress can and must do better. According to the Army Corps, we have 59 ports and harbors that carry about 90 percent of our economic activity in this country--2.2 billion tons of cargo and $1.4 trillion in commerce.
In testimony before the Senate committee last year, an official from the United States Chamber of Commerce discussed the importance of our ports, inland and coastal waterways to America's businesses. This is what the official said:
The business community, from ports to barge operators to agricultural exporters, depends on a marine transportation system to move goods to domestic and international markets. They are also important parts of the Nation's economic engine and are drivers for job creation in America. Maintaining our Federal channels to their authorized and required dimensions is a critical part of ensuring that this commerce can continue uninterrupted.
Yet we continue to have a significant dredging backlog, and I am concerned that this bill's allocation for the Army Corps is insufficient to appropriately [Page: H4801]
address that backlog. It doesn't just affect commerce; it impacts people's lives very intimately as well. I hear from constituents in my district, particularly those in Newburyport and the Plum Island part of Newbury, who tell me that their homes are quite literally about to fall into the ocean unless
the Army Corps can rehabilitate a jetty that hasn't been repaired in 40 years. That's not an uncommon story on our waterways.
The least we can do for these families is to ensure that the important Army Corps programs are funded at last year's levels. The subcommittee allocation makes that incredibly difficult for Members to address, and I understand that. Taking care of perceived deficiencies in a bill are going to need attention. I expect there will be some concerns, which I am perfectly willing to address in my further comments.
In anticipation of what might be brought up, either Congress can fund these important Army Corps functions at last year's levels by making modest reductions to two Department of Energy programs that, when combined, receive more than $1 billion in this bill or Congress can choose to sustain the level of commitment to the Army Corps and slightly reduce the Department of Energy's fossil fuel energy research and development and the nuclear energy programs.
I think it is a relatively easy call. For my constituents, it certainly is. Congress should be on the side of increasing its investments and repairing and modernizing its water infrastructure and putting people back to work, so support for this amendment would ensure that we don't diminish our commitment to those critical Army Corps functions.
With that, I yield back the balance of my time.