WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tues, Sept. 18, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor on the need to pass America’s Water Infrastructure Act.
Last week, both Barrasso and EPW Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) announced a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the comprehensive water infrastructure legislation with the leadership from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The bill is the most sweeping infrastructure package to be considered this Congress. It grows the economy, keeps communities safe, cuts red tape and lowers the deficit. Sen. Barrasso’s remarks:
“President Trump has called on Congress to take up major infrastructure legislation. Passing an infrastructure bill would create jobs, grow our economy, and help keep families safe. Water infrastructure is a key part of the president’s call.
“Drinking water systems, dams, levees, ports, reservoirs, and waste water systems, they matter to just about every community in America.Infrastructure is essential and a central of everyone’s life. They bring water into our homes and they protect us from flooding caused by catastrophic storms — like the one we had this week on the East Coast.
“Many of these aging water systems are in need of attention. Several need to be repaired or fully replaced, while other long-awaited projects need to get started.
“The time to upgrade our water infrastructure is now. Last week, committee leaders from the Senate and the House of Representatives reached a deal of historic proportion, comprehensive water infrastructure legislation.
“Now passed in the House and awaiting passage in the Senate. The name of the consensus bill is America’s Water Infrastructure Act. As chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I worked closely with Ranking Member Carper, Infrastructure Subcommittee Chairman Inhofe, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Cardin to reach this deal with the House.
“This is by far the most significant infrastructure bill this Congress and it is the most significant water infrastructure bill in decades. It’s bipartisan and it helps all 50 states. The legislation does three big things. It grows the economy, it cuts Washington red tape, and it keeps communities safe.
“America’s Water Infrastructure Act spurs economic growth by creating jobs and authorizing vital projects. This bill authorizes projects to deepen nationally significant ports, maintain inland shipping lanes, upgrade aging dams, and increase water storage in the West.These projects ensure that American-made goods can be shipped from the heartland, to the coast, and around the world.
“Access to consistent water supply is key for America’s ranchers and farmers.They expect that their water will be delivered when they need it. Ranchers and farmers will directly benefit from this legislation, as crumbling irrigation systems will receive badly needed maintenance.In my home state of Wyoming, and across the West, water storage is a serious issue.
“This consensus bill will increase storage capacity and expand water reservoirs — like the Fontenelle Reservoir in Wyoming.
“The legislation cuts red tape by making it easier to get projects through the Army Corps of Engineers process. It will give state and local leaders an increased role in prioritizing which Army Corps projects are built.
“When a local partner takes over an Army Corps of Engineers flood control project, that non-federal partner will no longer need to worry about obtaining new permits.
“The bill mandates that the Army Corps transfer its authority to the local partner – so new permits and the time required to get them will no longer be necessary.
"We’ve also included important language to help smaller rural communities leverage federal dollars so they can complete needed infrastructure projects.
“Leveraging federal resources is an important component of President Trump’s infrastructure plan.
“Federal leveraging programs – like the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act – can get taxpayers the most bang for their buck.
“In the past, smaller rural communities have had trouble accessing these dollars.
“The language in our consensus bill will give these rural areas the chance to compete for these funds and be able to participate in this very successful program.
“Cutting red tape and increasing access to leveraging programs will help us get projects done faster, better, cheaper and smarter.
“Finally, the bipartisan agreement will help keep communities safe.
“The critical infrastructure projects included in this package will help prevent damaging flood waters by maintaining dams, levees, and beach fronts.
“It will also create a permanent program to address floods caused by ice jams – like the one we saw in Worland, Wyoming.
“The legislation allows the Army Corps of Engineers to more effectively assist communities recovering from devastating storms and surging rivers.
“This bill isn’t just about flood prevention – it is the most significant drinking water legislation in decades.
“The bill invests in repairing aging drinking water systems.
“For the first time since 1996, Congress will authorize the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.
“These funds give states certainty that they can meet their drinking water needs.
“The bill is also fiscally responsible.
“The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said that America’s Water Infrastructure Act will authorize these important projects and reduce the deficit at the same time.
“America’s Water Infrastructure Act has received broad bipartisan support from Democrats, Republicans, local governments, and stakeholders.
“It originally passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously, by a vote of 21 to zero.
“After reaching this consensus agreement, the House of Representatives passed the updated bill unanimously by voice vote.
“Simply put, America’s Water Infrastructure Act is good for the entire nation.
“President Trump called on Congress to pass major infrastructure legislation.
“America’s Water Infrastructure Act answers that call.
“By reaching this bipartisan agreement, my home state of Wyoming - and the nation - will see upgrades, reforms, and new initiatives that deliver on the president’s commitment to rebuild our aging water systems.
“The Senate should take up this important bill and send it to the president for his signature.”