Dear Fellow Marylanders:
The Senate passed legislation with a 93-1 vote this week that will create and maintain jobs across Maryland and the nation. I bring this to your attention because our economy needs support across the board to keep unemployment low, but also because in a 50-50 Senate, there are not many instances of late when we are able to come together in such a solidly bipartisan way.
The bill we passed is the Water Resources Development Act, which happens to fall within the jurisdiction of the Environment and Public Works Transportation Subcommittee that I chair. This is an extremely important bill that gives the Army Corps of Engineers the authorization it needs to advance critically important water projects in our country. Collectively, they also will help ease pressure on supply chains and helping our environment.
It’s a truly bipartisan bill that I wrote with Senators Tom Carper and Shelley Moore Capito (chair and ranking member of the full Environment and Public Works Committee) and Senator Kevin Cramer, who is the ranking member for our Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee.
WRDA, as we call it, because everything in government needs a good acronym, incorporates the input for every single senator and reflects priorities for our water resources in states and communities across the country. It provides crucial authority for projects and guidance for the Army Corps of Engineers to engineer better solutions to our nation’s toughest water challenges.
Translation: the work of the Army Corps is vital for keeping commerce flowing in our waterways, for restoring aquatic ecosystems and for helping communities deal with the risk and impacts of flooding. More commerce equals more jobs and lower prices for goods that you and I use every day.
In Maryland, we are partnering with the Army Corps to address the challenges facing our region. The Port of Baltimore, for example, is critical in our national supply chains and it is an economic engine for our state. To enhance the port’s ability to serve commerce and provide safe navigation, the Army Corps is moving forward with the Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration Project, or Mid-bay, which will put dredged material to beneficial use to restore our ecosystems in the Chesapeake Bay, a major win-win for commerce and the environment.
In what might be described as a massive recycling project, we are dredging our shipping channels to the depth needed for safe navigation and repurposing that material to rebuild habitat for wildlife and ecosystems, meeting our economic and environmental objectives at the same time.
A project the size of Mid-Bay also provides opportunities to benefit smaller channels along the Chesapeake Bay. In Maryland, we have dozens and dozens of smaller channels that support economic activity and recreational opportunities and are an integral part of the identity of smaller communities they serve, but these channels have not received the maintenance they require. I am proud that this year’s WRDA bill provides the Army Corps with new authorization to address these underserved harbors and channels, directing the Corps to take a closer look according to the significance to these communities and not just based on the cargo they move. The benefit of this program will go far beyond Maryland and help many communities around America.
I’m also proud this bill includes a new statewide authorization for the Army Corps to proactively provide assistance to Maryland jurisdictions on environmental infrastructure. This is a tremendous opportunity for communities to meet local needs, such as dealing with aging infrastructure and the backlog of critical repairs and upgrades to water supply, wastewater, and storm water infrastructure.
The Army Corps is carrying out its work – important work on navigation, flood risk mitigation, ecosystem restoration, and environmental infrastructure – against the backdrop of worsening climate crisis. This reality is forcing us to act with new urgency to protect our communities from multiple hazards that our country is already experiencing with increased frequency and severity, including concentrated catastrophic rainfall events, sea level rise and the associated erosion of flooding that these impacts bring. It is also forcing us to prioritize the restoration of ecosystems harmed by climate change that can still play a role in building resilience.
In case you aren’t familiar with the Army Corp of Engineers, this military unit traces its roots back to the Army’s chief engineer, first appointed by the Continental Congress in 1775. The Army Corps Baltimore District is slightly younger, but it is celebrating a milestone 175th anniversary this year. These engineers played an instrumental role in construction of Fort McHenry, and today they are helping to build a structurally and economically sound future for Maryland and our nation.
Senate approval of the Water Resources Development Act came one day after another bipartisan vote to approve the CHIPS and science bill, which will bring crucial manufacturing capacity back home, and foster innovation and scientific discovery. WRDA and CHIPS both target some of the root challenges facing our economy and make changes that will create jobs and lower prices.
The House of Representatives approved the CHIPS and science bill on Thursday, so it is headed to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law. I expect WRDA will not be far behind.
It’s been a productive week in the Senate, but there is still more work ahead to bring our economy back to a place of growth that matches our record-low unemployment. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to instantly bring our economy back into alignment. Building on the American Rescue Plan and historic infrastructure investments, which are investing in and rebuilding our communities, I am committed to do more to support small businesses, more to support education and worker training, more to reduce health care and food prices, and more to keep our communities safe. It will take bold actions from Congress, working with President Biden and our state governments, to keep us heading in the right direction.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me and for your input. I appreciate everyone who has taken a few moments to reply to these emails week after week.