Water project bills important

By U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe - The Oklahoman

This week, the U.S. Senate passed the long-overdue Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), sending the authorization bill to the president for his signature. Unfortunately, President Bush has threatened to veto this bill. I am committed to making the conservative case supporting WRDA to ensure a bill with project authorizations vital to the nation's infrastructure becomes law.
 
The president has cited "excessive spending" as his motivation for the potential veto. But as I continue to point out, and as The Oklahoman did in a recent editorial, the fact is the WRDA bill is not a spending bill, it is an authorizing bill. It simply sets out which projects and programs are allowed to get in line for future funding. While the bill is not perfect, it makes significant progress in addressing our water resources needs in a responsible manner. Infrastructure is an essential part of our nation's economy and its importance should not be understated.
 
WRDA not only authorizes and modifies critical projects in the areas of waterways navigation, hurricane and storm damage reduction, flood damage reduction, and environmental restoration nationwide, but it also has a real and important impact here in Oklahoma. Communities across the state, from Guymon to Durant, can benefit from this bill, ranging from authorizations improving our lakes and waterways to authorizations for sewer improvements and water-related infrastructure.
 
One important outcome of this bill is the authorizing of funds to complete the relocation assistance for residents in the Tar Creek communities. Most importantly, it provides the legal authority the Environmental Protection Agency requires to re-evaluate remediation plans at Tar Creek to conduct remediation and resident assistance, taking an important step toward finally solving one of Oklahoma's most pressing environmental issues.
 
The WRDA bill will result in savings of almost $10 million for the city of Edmond and $1.5 million for the communities surrounding the Waurika Conservancy District by clarifying disputes with the Army Corps of Engineers over water use. The bill also will continue ongoing projects at the Red River that will enhance drinking water supply and agricultural irrigation. And these are just a few examples of the types of improvements that can take place across the state when this bill becomes law.
 
In addition to this good news, keep two things in mind. First, I am a staunch fiscal conservative, but I am not apologetic about increased spending on our nation's defense and infrastructure needs. Second, this bill doesn't spend a dime. It's an authorizing bill that sets criteria for projects. Without this bill, Senate appropriators would be turned loose to ram earmarks through with no discipline at all.
 
WRDA is critical to the viability of our nation and I know that most Oklahomans, Americans and members of Congress will agree that it is necessary to come together and override the president's veto of this bill to ensure that these necessary authorizations become law.
 
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, is the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee.