Gibbs Statement from Hearing on Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Development Reports
Feb. 24, 2016—Almost two years ago, a strong bipartisan message was sent by Congress and the President with the enactment of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. Congress made a conscious effort in WRRDA 2014 to enhance America’s competiveness by strengthening investment in the Nation’s water resources infrastructure.
While we are turning the page and beginning the next WRDA process, the Corps still has to issue more than 40% of the implementation guidance from WRRDA 2014. WRRDA 2014 contained many important provisions to improve the function of the program.
However, the Corps seems to be slow-walking the implementation guidance. While the WRRDA law is transformative, and in some places complicated, we remain disappointed at the pace and the prioritization at which the Corps of Engineers is carrying out the drafting of the implementation guidance. After all, WRRDA is the law of the land – it is not a suggestion for the Administration to casually disregard.
Today we are holding a hearing to review Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Reports and the two Reports to Congress on Future Water Resources Development, commonly called the “Annual Report.” We intend to review these critical documents to ensure they balance critical investments in infrastructure along with environmental protections.
Since the first Annual Report in 2015 did not meet the Committee’s expectations, in June 2015 the Subcommittee held a hearing on implementation of WRRDA 2014 and provided guidance to the Corps, especially in how the Annual Report process is to be carried out. The Annual Report delivered several weeks ago is an indication that the Corps heard our message, and the 2016 Annual Report is an improved product. I want to especially highlight the fact the Corps reevaluated many of the projects rejected in the 2015 Annual Report and has included them for consideration as we move a WRDA 2016 forward.
We intend to move a smaller WRDA bill this Congress. This bill will be consensus driven and bipartisan, will address several clarifying and technical changes to WRRDA 2014, and will hopefully also authorize some of the projects that are included in the 2015 and 2016 Annual Reports.
The Corps of Engineers constructs projects for the purposes of navigation, flood control, shoreline protection, hydroelectric power, recreation, water supply, environmental protection, restoration and enhancement, and fish and wildlife mitigation.
The Corps of Engineers planning process considers economic development and environmental needs as it addresses water resources challenges. The planning process addresses the Nation’s water resources needs by exploring a full range of alternatives in developing solutions that meet both national and local needs.
The 24 Chief’s Reports we are discussing today are the result of this rigorous planning process. These projects are proposed by non-federal interests in cooperation and consultation with the Corps. All of these Chief’s Reports, while tailored to meet locally developed needs, have national economic and environmental benefits.
These Chief’s Reports address all three missions of the Corps – navigation, flood damage reduction, and aquatic ecosystem restoration – and they balance economic development and environmental considerations equally.