|1:14 PM EDT||
Rodney Alexander, R-LA 5th
Mr. ALEXANDER. Madam Chairman, the question is, just how important is the Mississippi River? The Mississippi River system connects approximately 30 States in our Nation's heartland with the international markets. Sixty percent of all U.S. grain exports are shipped from the Mississippi River. Twenty-five percent of all large commercial bulk ships that arrive in the U.S. come to the mouth of the Mississippi River. U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimates that the river system facilitates between
$85 billion and $104 billion annually in foreign trade through the Mississippi River system. And one-third of the Nation's oil comes up the river to refineries in Louisiana.
This year's historic flooding carried an estimated 60 million cubic yards of sediment down the Mississippi River. This sediment doesn't just float on out into the gulf; it settles. It settles all along the river, from Missouri to Lake Providence, Louisiana, on down to New Orleans, where currently 5 extra feet of sediment has built up over the normal levels. Five feet. And for every foot that's taken away from the draft of a ship, it costs that ship $1 million. Madam Chairman, one doesn't have
to be a mathematician to tell that that's pretty expensive to our economy.
The flood has not only highlighted a need for dredging, it has also damaged levees and floodways all along the Mississippi. The Corps of Engineers estimates that on the river alone it will have to spend an additional $1 billion to $2 billion to repair levees and floodways damaged by the recent floodwaters. This is work that must be done to allow these levees to again protect Americans from future floods.
Madam Chairman, I know that there aren't many out there speaking against the Mississippi River and the need for maintenance. They are just arguing that the money does not need to be offset since we could call it emergency funding. And yes, we could go that route. But as we are in the middle of negotiations and debate about raising the debt ceiling, the last thing we should be thinking of is adding more to the pile of debt. We cannot continue to do this, Madam Chairman, especially when we have
seen the national debt increase at an average of $3.9 billion per day, especially when the Treasury Department now projects that the U.S. debt will exceed the GDP by the end of this year.
The Congressional Research Service study reports that if supplemental operations had been fully offset over the last three decades, the Federal debt could have been reduced by at least $1.3 trillion. That translates to a reduction of public interest payments of $57 billion per year. Ignoring the need to offset spending is a mistake, Madam Chairman, a mistake that our children cannot afford for us to make.
I yield back the balance of my time.