4:11 PM EDT
Earl Blumenauer, D-OR 3rd

Mr. BLUMENAUER. I yield myself 3 minutes.

This amendment ensures protection for waters and wetlands that provide flood protection or economically valuable habitats for our coastal recreation waters.

Healthy streams and wetlands provide vital public benefits for flood protection, commerce and public health. As there is an effort on the part of my friends on the other side of the aisle to eliminate these critical protections, it's important to keep that in mind.

Pollution destroys habitat and cripples local fishing and tourism. There has been talk about economic development.

Well, it costs money to deal with treating polluted waters. There are 40 million recreational anglers in America that generate $125 billion in economic output, including $45 billion in retail sales and pay $16.4 billion in State and Federal taxes.

The sport supports over 1 million American jobs right here in the United States. And when a wetland is filled with sediment or drained, it can no longer protect towns from devastating floods.

We have had witness over the last couple of years of this devastating impact. An acre of wetland provides more than $10,000 per person in public benefits. If you lose 1 percent of a watershed's wetland, it can increase flood volume by almost 7 percent. These are nature's sponges that we need to protect.

It's also important to point out that not all States protect the quality of their water. Some States just simply don't care as much as other States; some States are not as capable of protecting it.

In those States where protection is lax, the EPA must have the authority to step in to protect the economy, the environment, and human welfare for residents in that State as well as the States that are downstream that would also be affected. We shouldn't have Americans held hostage to the lowest common denominator of people who are simply not going to maintain the standards.

This amendment preserves that authority for the EPA to protect communities who rely on water for fishing and other economic benefits, along with wetlands that create vital flood protection.

Mr. Chairman, the American public strongly supports clean water. This has been one of the most popular pieces of legislation since it was enacted in the Nixon administration. It, until now, has had pretty broad bipartisan support.

The legislation here represents the most aggressive attack on it, in my memory, in 15 years in Congress. My amendment, at least, would clarify this particular item.

I urge its adoption.

I reserve the balance of my time.