Congresswoman to Continue Fight for Dredging Projects (USA)
Regarding the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee markup of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), Congresswoman Brown made the following statement:
“Since there was an agreement prior to committee markup on the WRRDA bill between the Transportation Committee Chairmen and the Committee Ranking Members that no amendments would be accepted, (there were 11 amendments total that were offered and withdrawn), I chose to withdraw my amendment and take the fight directly to the House Floor, where I would have a broader coalition of support.
The mark-up in the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee was just the start of the process, and I intend to push for authorization of the projects at the Jacksonville and Everglades ports as this legislation moves to the House Floor and to conference with the Senate.
The amendment that I will offer when WRRDA reaches the House floor, along with my colleague Lois Frankel, is very simple: it authorizes projects that receive a final Chiefs Report up to one year following enactment of the bill. It is important to note that this is no different from contingency language included in past WRRDA bills.
Under the bill’s current arbitrary deadline, critical projects at two deep water ports in Florida and several other locations throughout the U.S. that are expecting their Chiefs Report in just a few months will have to wait years before they can begin work.
The process for receiving a Chiefs Report for a project is a long and arduous one. It includes rigorous study and cost-benefit analysis; it must be economically and environmentally justified, and it must provide an overall benefit to the country. The projects impacted by this amendment are exactly the same as the ones currently listed in the bill except that they receive their Chiefs Reports a few months later than the others.
The Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies are currently spending billions of U.S. tax dollars rebuilding the infrastructure in Irag and Afganistan, with very limited results. But right here in the United States, it is hard to believe that we cannot spend one cent on water infrastructure without finding offsets or cutting other vital programs.
The Jacksonville Port and North Florida community that I represent simply cannot afford any more delays in preparing the Port for the larger, modern ships set to arrive in 2015. A deeper draft is critical to the continued viability of JAXPORT as an economic engine for Northeast Florida. Today, the Port provides 65,000 area jobs and $19 Billion a year in economic activity. With a deeper draft, the Port has estimated that one shipping company alone would add 90,000 jobs to the region. Yet without my amendment, these 90,000 jobs will be lost. Indeed, the headline from a local Jacksonville paper after the bill was introduced was titled: “JaxPorts Asian Terminal Gone if No Dredging This Year.”
We’re already failing to prepare our ports for post-panamax ships and are falling behind our international competition. Ports throughout Asia, Europe, South America and the Caribbean all have ports with depths of 50 feet.
I agree with and fully support reauthorizing WRRDA every two years, but I don’t believe many people are confident that will happen, and the fact it took 7 years since reauthorizing the last Water Resources Development Act is a testament to that.
Simply put, authorizing these additional projects will create thousands of jobs, spur economic development and benefit the nation as a whole.
As this bill continues to move through the process we need to work together to make sure that we treat every state fairly and don’t arbitrarily leave any critical infrastructure projects behind.”
Press Release, September 20, 2013