Posted 9-13-18, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and committee ranking member Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) delivered the following remarks on the importance of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.

Earlier this week, both Barrasso and Carper 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 is fiscally responsible. For more information on the legislation, click here.

Barrasso and Carper’s delivered the remarks before a committee hearing.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks as prepared for delivery: 

“Before we begin today’s hearing, I would like to say just a few words about America’s Water Infrastructure Act. 

“This week, we were able to reach a bipartisan agreement with the House of Representatives on major water infrastructure legislation. 

“America’s Water Infrastructure Act answers President Trump’s call to address our nation’s aging infrastructure. 

“In this instance, the bill fixes America’s water infrastructure. 

“It authorizes important projects to deepens nationally significant ports, upgrades levees and dams, maintains inland waterways and shipping lanes, increases water storage for the arid West, fixes aging irrigation systems, and enhances American-made hydro power. 

“This is also the most significant drinking water infrastructure bill in decades. 

“It authorizes both new and existing programs that will gives states and localities the ability to better address their drinking water infrastructure needs. 

“This legislation is especially important as Hurricane Florence threatens the East Coast. 

“Provisions in this bill will boost flood control and increase water storage. 

“Both are critical in the preparation for and response to major storms. 

“The House of Representatives plans to pass the legislation today. 

“Then the Senate can take it up and send it to President Trump for his signature. 

“America’s Water Infrastructure Act is a major infrastructure bill. 

“It shows congressional commitment to heed the presidents call for action on infrastructure. 

“The next step is roads and bridges. Surface transportation. 

“I hope we can have the same bipartisan success when we address America’s transportation infrastructure. 

“I would like to thank Ranking Member Carper, subcommittee Chairman Inhofe, subcommittee Ranking Member Cardin, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Shuster, and Ranking Member DeFazio for all of their hard work on this bill.”

Senator Carper’s remarks as prepared for delivery: 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman for allowing us to take some time before we take up today’s official business to highlight some exciting progress that’s been made this week. 

“As the chairman mentioned, on Monday night, we were able to reach an agreement with our counterparts in the House to advance America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which the chairman and I co-authored, with the invaluable help of both the majority and minority staffs of this committee and our colleagues over the better part of this year. 

“As you may recall, our bill was reported out of this committee unanimously a few months back and, hopefully, it will receive the same kind of support in the House later today and then in the Senate in short order. 

“In the meantime, I would just like to highlight several especially noteworthy provisions in this bill that will make significant, positive differences in communities across the country, including many in my home state of Delaware, throughout the Delmarva Peninsula and beyond. 

“For the first time in over 20 years, this bill reauthorizes the program that provides federal funding to states to help clean up the water our families drink every day. 

“The crisis that unfolded in Flint several years ago, and that we’ve seen play out since in far too many states across this country, was both tragic and avoidable. 

“In this bill, we are making clear that we’ve learned our lesson: that we need to devote more resources to the things that are most important, like making sure every parent – no matter what zip code they live in – can be confident that the water coming out of their tap is safe for their kids, and them, to drink. 

“Not only does this bill reauthorize this program, but we actually double its funding by Fiscal Year 2021 – to the tune of nearly $2 billion. 

“Importantly, this legislation also allows states that detect contaminants in drinking water to assist residents who depend on private wells for their drinking water, rather than a public drinking water source. 

“One in six Delawareans, for example, depends on private wells for their drinking water. It’s just not right that if contaminants end up in their water, through no fault of their own, that the resident has to find a way to rectify that situation solely on their own. 

“Our bill helps to change that by helping states test and treat underground sources of drinking water. 

“Also of note, this bill authorizes investments in the waterways that keep this country moving, from the Port of Wilmington, to the Port of Mobile to the Port of New York and New Jersey. 

“Over 99 percent of U.S. overseas trade volume moves through waterways that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains. 

“Our bill will help to improve and expand the harbors, channels, and ports on which our economy depends. 

“And with Hurricane Florence bearing down on the East Coast this week, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the important provisions in this bill that help coastal communities better prepare for increasingly powerful and frequent extreme weather events and enable them to rebuild more quickly after disaster strikes. 

“Most notably perhaps, in light of the avoidable devastation and tragedy we saw in the wake of Hurricanes Maria and Harvey, our bill allows for the investment of $100 million in repairing drinking water systems damaged by storms, and it creates new programs to protect this critical part of our infrastructure from damage due to extreme weather events going forward. 

“While President Trump has made waves this week with his comments about his “unsung successes” in Puerto Rico where nearly 3,000 of our fellow Americans lost their lives, we have been working to pass a bill that will help to ensure storm-ravaged communities actually have the resources they so desperately need. 

“There is much more in this bill that is worth highlighting, and I’m sure there will be time to do so in the days and weeks to come. 

“But for now, I want to thank the chairman again. I want to thank Senators Cardin and Inhofe and their staffs for their hard work throughout this process. 

“I also want to thank Congressmen Shuster, DeFazio, Walden and Pallone who were great partners in the House. 

“And I want to lastly thank Secretary R.D. James from the Army Corps of Engineers who made this legislation a real priority and worked with the senators on this committee to craft a bill that I think we can all be proud of. 

“I’ll end with an African proverb that I think is particularly relevant here: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ 

“I think the fact that we’ve gotten a bill as substantive as this one to this point is proof that, in this Congress, if you want to get meaningful work done, you have to find some common ground and find ways to work together. 

“Once again, I’m glad we could do that here, Mr. Chairman, and I hope we can finally get to work implementing these important provisions soon. Thank you.” 

Background Information:

Barrasso and Carper, together with EPW Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced S. 2800, America’s Water Infrastructure Act on May 8, 2018. On May 22, 2018, the legislation unanimously passed the EPW committee by a vote of 21 to 0.