Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott delivered the following testimony before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Waters Resources and Environment about programs he would like to see included in the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 – authorization legislation for programs operated and projects completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
“I represent the 3rd congressional district of Virginia where the Chesapeake Bay meets the James, Nansemond, and Elizabeth Rivers, and where there are both challenges and opportunities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has worked to keep America’s waterways and ports open to trade, while working with our communities to ensure that they can continue to live with the water that surrounds our community.
“My district is home to the Port of Virginia which is one of the largest and busiest ports on the eastern seaboard. With 95 percent of our nation’s trade moving by water, it is essential that the port is able to maintain operations. The 3rd district is also home to multiple shipyards and neighbors Norfolk Naval Station, the largest naval base in the U.S. These waterways are essential to our community.
“I would like to take a moment to thank the Committee for their work with the Port of Virginia. The Port of Virginia is tied to nearly ten percent of jobs and is responsible for nearly $40 billion in economic activity in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is critical to our financial well-being that we ensure that the Port is able to handle to the increased number and size of containers. The Port and the Army Corps of Engineers have undertaken the dredging and widening and deepening of the Norfolk Harbor to enable safe and efficient two-way passage of the new larger container ships. The project will require a New Start designation to keep the projected timeline intact.
“My district is also home to the City of Norfolk, which has been a leader in ensuring that their city can manage the surrounding rising water and is already serving as an example to other municipalities working to adapt. Unfortunately, due to climate-driven sea level rise, compounded by historic land subsidence in the region, these waterways pose a serious risk. Some studies estimate this rise to be as much as 7 feet by the year 2100, the Hampton Roads region is the second largest population center at risk from sea level rise in the nation, behind only New Orleans. High tides, nor’easters, and hurricanes exacerbate the risk of flooding in the City of Norfolk and the region. As the home of Naval Station Norfolk and numerous other federal and military facilities, this recurrent flooding also poses a severe national security risk.
“State and local elected officials in Virginia already appreciate the significant threat sea level rise poses to Hampton Roads. Unfortunately, the cost to proactively and aggressively address this problem head-on is far too great for any city to bear by itself. While Norfolk has already spent considerable sums of money to study its recurrent flooding issues and implement resilient infrastructure where feasible, the scope of the entire project to actually address the problem is expected to total in the billions of dollars. That is why I am appreciative of the Committee’s inclusion of resiliency initiatives in your infrastructure proposal.
“The City of Norfolk was identified as a high-risk area for coastal storm flooding and engaged in a Storm Risk Management Study with the Army Corps of Engineers. The subsequent report and plan will reduce the storm risk and protect Norfolk. The project is ready to move into the Preconstruction Engineering Design (PED) and construction phase of the recommended plan and requires authorization from Congress.”