November 17, 2010

WATER RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT ACT OF 2010

Legislative and Policy Proposals to Benefit the Economy, Create Jobs, Protect Public Safety and Maintain America's Water Resources Infrastructure

Thank you for holding this hearing today.    The Water Resource Development Act is one of the most important public works laws that we consider.   I am happy to have the opportunity today to address some of the critical economic issues associated with our water resources infrastructure.  

 

Today's witnesses will discuss some of the specific funding mechanisms used to support our water resources infrastructure.   We'll hear about levees and locks and dams.   We'll hear about the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.  

 

While the specific points our witnesses will be making will vary, but there will be a common theme throughout today's hearing, and that is jobs.   The economic importance of a robust water resources infrastructure for America is vital to creating and maintaining jobs all across this country.  

 

Maryland has a geography and topography which makes the Chesapeake Bay particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of erosion. This erosion contributes to five millions of cubic yards of sediment deposited annually into the bay, adversely affecting water quality, destroying valuable wetlands and habitat, and clogging navigation channels.

 

Every year the Corps clears tons of eroded sediment from the federal navigation channels that lead into and out of the Port of Baltimore.   Keeping this port open and the channels dredged is essential not just for Maryland, but for the nation.

 

The Port of Baltimore is an enormous economic engine for Maryland with national significance.  There are 126 miles of shipping channels leading to the Port of Baltimore. In 2008, approximately 47.5 million tons of cargo, including 33.0 million tons of foreign cargo valued at $45.3 billion, and approximately 14.5 million tons of domestic waterborne cargo, moved through the Port of Baltimore. 

 

Among the 360 U.S. ports, Baltimore is ranked No. 1 for handling:

 

·          Trucks,

·          Roll On/Roll Off cargo (i.e. automobiles, trucking trailers, and freight cars),

·          Imported forest products

·          Gypsum, Sugar and Iron Ore, and

·          it is the country's second largest automobile exporter and

·          nationally ranked 12th in total value of foreign cargo handled. 

 

 

 

The Maryland Port Administrations estimates that The Port generates 50,700 jobs in Maryland with $3.7 billion in wages and salaries.   Additionally, there are approximately 68,300 related and indirect jobs associated with Port activities.  

 

At the local level, Maryland puts the Bay's dredge material to good use on coastal habitat, beach and island restoration projects.

 

The Port of Baltimore is one of America's greatest ports, supporting an incredible array of jobs.   But it is not the only port in a state that has more miles of shoreline than the entire west coast of America.  

 

Salisbury is a relatively small city and an unexpected place for Maryland's second busiest port.   Located 30 miles inland from the Chesapeake Bay, the port of Salisbury is vital to the entire Delmarva Peninsula.   Fuel oil, diesel and other petroleum products are delivered daily in some of the hundreds of barges that are the backbone of the port.  

 

Farmers need the port to move corn and soybeans to market.   Shale, sand and aggregates move up and down the Wicomico River, supporting thousands of jobs in the construction industry.

 

Maryland is home to scores of other ports, many of them tiny operations that support our independent watermen… the men and women who make their living crabbing or oystering the Chesapeake's waters.

 

Before I close, I want to mention one other issue.  

 

There are six major federally-constructed levee systems in Maryland consisting of miles of earthen levees and structural floodwalls.   In the past, the Potomac River presented a potential flood threat to the residents of Cumberland, in western Maryland.   But the Cumberland Flood Control Project has done an outstanding job of lessening the threat of future flooding.   This levee system protects 400 businesses and 178 households.   And it saves all of them the extra expense of purchasing federal flood insurance.  

 

As the economic recovery continues to struggle to take hold, the last thing these businesses and families need is to be hit with a big increase in insurance premiums.

 

This morning we will be hearing about some funding issues and the continuing challenges that we face in making the necessary investments in our water infrastructure.   I want to underscore that each of these issues relates back to our number one priority: creating and sustaining jobs.    

 

I look forward to hearing from today's witnesses and working with my colleagues on the latest reauthorization of WRDA.