HOUSE TRANSPORTATION LEADERS REACT TO WRDA VETO
WASHINGTON—Today Rep. James L. Oberstar (Minn.), Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, blasted President Bush for vetoing H.R. 1495, the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. This bipartisan legislation, which was approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate by an overwhelming majority, authorizes approximately $23 billion for more than 800 water project modifications and studies and new projects for the Army Corps of Engineers. President Clinton signed the last water resources bill into law in 2000.
Oberstar and Johnson issued the following statement:
“It is simply irresponsible for President Bush to veto the only WRDA legislation that has made it to his desk since he took office. Our country cannot afford more setbacks on water resources issues and projects that are critical to our Nation’s economy, as well as to our communities.
As the experiences of the last few months have demonstrated, America’s infrastructure is in dire need. Whether the issue is bridges that collapse in Minnesota or levees that fail in New Orleans, our nation’s infrastructure has reached a critical juncture and may be on the verge of failure. How many more failures do we need before this administration understands the importance of investing in the repair, replacement, and sustainability of our nation’s infrastructure? The American people’s lives and livelihoods depend on safe, reliable, and dependable roads, bridges, levees, and navigation corridors.
State and local governments desperately need the funding authorized in this bill for navigation, flood control, environmental restoration, recreation, water supply studies and environmental infrastructure. The Bush administration claims that the cost of the legislation is too high, but this is not just one WRDA bill.
Instead, H.R. 1495 represents a backlog of seven years of project requests. Because of the failure of the 107th, 108th, and 109th Congresses to pass WRDA legislation, the 110th Congress needed to roll three WRDA bills into one. Divide the cost by the number of years that have passed since we last passed this critical legislation, and the cost is understandable.
There is pent-up demand to address the nation’s water resources needs, including restoring wetlands in Coastal Louisiana and improving hurricane protection in New Orleans. By vetoing this bill, President Bush again demonstrated a stunning lack of compassion and support for the people along the Gulf Coast, because it delays funding that the region desperately needs for recovery from the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The President is backing away from his pledge in New Orleans in September 2005 to ‘make the flood protection system stronger than it has ever been.’ This veto also postpones much-needed improvements to the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway System, as well as overdue restoration efforts in the Florida Everglades.
What makes this veto particularly galling is that President Bush is now asking the American people to spend another $196 billion on Iraq. Yet, he is unwilling to invest our own nation’s future and in the recovery of the Gulf Coast region.
Because both the House and the Senate passed H.R. 1495 by an overwhelming and veto-proof margin, we fully expect Congress to again express strong bipartisan support for this legislation by overriding the President’s veto.”
The Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (H.R. 1495)
H.R. 1495 authorizes approximately $23 billion projects and studies for the Corps of Engineers within its existing missions of flood damage reduction, navigation, environmental restoration, water supply, hydropower, and environmental infrastructure.
The following is a summary of major projects included in the conference report for H.R. 1495:
- Authorizes the initial projects for the restoration of coastal wetlands in the State of Louisiana. Over the last century, Louisiana has lost approximately 1,900 square miles of wetlands that provide natural protection for coastal areas from the devastation of hurricane storm surges. H.R. 1495 would authorize the Corps of Engineers to reverse the loss of coastal wetlands, and provide increased hurricane and storm damage reduction for the areas so devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
- Authorizes the Corps of Engineers to raise and enhance flood protection levees surrounding the City of New Orleans to achieve a 100-year level of protection.
- Authorize the Corps of Engineers to make improvements to the 17th Street, Orleans Avenue, and London Avenue drainage canals that significantly contributed to the flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
- Authorizes the Corps of Engineers to close the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) that significantly contributed to the flooding of New Orleans.
- Authorizes the Corps of Engineers to construct 7 new 1,200 foot locks on the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway System to reduce the overall transportation costs in the U.S. inland waterway system, and ensure that U.S. agricultural commodities remain competitive in international markets.
- Authorizes the Corps of Engineers to undertake the systematic environmental restoration along the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway System.
- Authorizes the first three projects resulting from the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and fulfill the Federal commitment to restore the Florida Everglades.
- Authorizes the development of an emergency response plan to address the VHS virus in the Great Lakes.