|3:06 PM EDT||
Tim Bishop, D-NY 1st
Mr. BISHOP of New York. Mr. Chairman, my amendment increases the operations and maintenance account by $35 million in line with the O&M budget for FY2010. My amendment offsets this amendment in the Fossil Energy R&D account by the same amount consistent with the President's FY2012 budget request.
Mr. Chairman, as our Nation continues to climb out of the hole left behind from the Great Recession, Congress must focus on funding programs that create jobs and encourage economic growth. As the ranking member on the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, it is clear to me just how important it is to ensure that our water infrastructure assets remain safe, reliable and efficient to address our goals of encouraging economic prosperity.
Over the past few years, my subcommittee has held hearing after hearing on the declining condition of our Nation's water transportation corridors, our levees and flood walls, and our Nation's wastewater infrastructure.
Countless witnesses have told us that our water-related infrastructure is on the brink of failure, and they have specifically warned how the effects of such a failure would devastate our health, safety, prosperity and quality of life.
In just the past decade, the Corps has had multiple emergency closures of navigation locks on almost every major river system to address infrastructure deterioration. These unscheduled closures result in significant impacts to the movement of goods and services, as well as impact shippers and customers alike in terms of higher costs.
Similarly, the lack of available maintenance dredging funding has resulted in reduced depths at many major port facilities and has all but passed over the dredging needs of smaller ports such as Lake Montauk Harbor and Shinnecock Inlet in my district of eastern Long Island.
Our Nation's ports handle 2.5 billion tons of domestic and international cargo annually. They move imports and exports worth more than $5.5 billion per day. In 2007, ports employed over 13.3 million Americans, 9 percent of the total workforce, and those jobs paid $649 billion in wages. One billion dollars in exports creates 15,000 new jobs. Our ports and the maritime industry keep America open for business.
It would seem apparent, then, that underfunding the missions of the Corps of Engineers is shortsighted for many reasons. First, it has a substantial negative impact on local economies and the bottom lines of big industries and small businesses alike.
Second, it puts our families and communities at an increased risk of flooding and damage from coastal storms.
Third, it delays the potential public and environmental health benefits that come from environmental restoration projects.
Finally, it places this Nation on an unsustainable path where it is forced to rely on an outdated and failing infrastructure to keep the Nation going.
In light of this, or in spite of this, in the first 6 months of the 112th Congress, the new House majority has put forward several legislative proposals to cut the funding for the core to levels not seen since 2004.
The most aggressive proposal, included as part of H.R. 1, would have cut over $500 million, about 10 percent, from an already strained Corps budget; and it could only result in increased delay in carrying out vital Corps projects and increased reliance on using Band-Aids to remedy critical infrastructure maintenance issues.
Similarly, this appropriations bill further reduces the level of funding for the Corps by 11.5 percent, including a remarkable cut of 20.5 percent from the Corps' construction account and an additional 38.2 percent reduction for Corps work along the Mississippi River. [Page: H4807]
Collectively, for the hundreds of Corps projects around the country, these reductions in funding will result in a growing deficiency in maintenance that will continue to expand until it becomes an emergency or fails at a critical moment.
Given the lack of viable offsets in this bill, my amendment focuses on the Corps' Operation and Maintenance account that provides funding to the Corps to dredge existing harbors to their congressionally authorized width and depth.
Mr. Chairman, eliminating the funds for operation and maintenance is both penny-wise and pound-foolish. Businesses large and small depend greatly on their ability to move their goods to market by using our Nation's waterways.
From California importers to Minnesota miners to Ohio steelworkers to Michigan manufacturers to New York fishermen to Louisiana exporters to Illinois farmers to Pennsylvania producers, they and a great many others depend on efficient waterborne transportation to receive goods, move products to market, create jobs, and grow economically.
I encourage my colleagues to support this amendment.
I yield back the balance of my time.