Inhofe Opening Statement for EPW Subcommittee Hearing on Water Infrastructure

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, delivered the following opening statement today at the EPW hearing entitled: “Water Resources: The Role of the Public and Private Sectors.” 

Witnesses for the hearing included: Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, commanding general and chief of engineers of the Army Corps of Engineers; James Lyons, director and CEO of the Alabama State Port Authority; Grant Humphreys, town founder of Carlton Landing, OK; Pete Rahn, Maryland secretary of transportation; Rick Goche commissioner of Port Bandon. 

As prepared for delivery: 

Today’s first Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee hearing is on a subject that is very important to our whole nation, including my state of Oklahoma. 

Our nation’s water resources provide our economy with a platform for the movement of goods, facilitate trade with the world and bring jobs and many other benefits to the communities that surround them. U.S. Army Corps of Engineer projects generate over $109 billion annually in economic benefits and generate over $34 billion in revenue to the U.S. Treasury. 

Unfortunately, like most of our infrastructure, our water resources are aging and in great need of repair and upgrades. Recognizing this need, the last two Congresses have worked to authorize new projects and create reforms to provide for more federal and private investment. 

Today’s hearing will explore the benefits our water resources provide to local and national economies and examine the continued needs that must be met so that the U.S. can remain globally competitive and provide jobs and other local benefits here at home. 

In Oklahoma, we know these benefits first hand. With ports along the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas Navigation System connecting Oklahoma with the Mississippi River and the rest of the world and over 20 Army Corps of Engineer managed lakes, my state, our industries and our citizens know the impact of our many water resource projects through cheaper goods and electricity, jobs, flood protection and many recreational opportunities. 

The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) is 445 miles long and spans Arkansas and the eastern part of Oklahoma.  Between the Port of Muskogee and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, Oklahoma ports are home to over 70 companies and industries, shipping 5.7 million tons of cargo with a value of $2.56 billion, employing more than 6,500 Oklahomans, creating an overall economic impact of more than $400 million to my state each year. 

The ability to move all kinds of goods without relying solely on one form of transportation keeps shipping costs low, benefiting companies that ship their wares regionally and globally and benefiting consumers who can stretch their dollars farther. 

In addition to moving products and manufactured goods, other Army Corps projects help our communities by providing for flood risk management, water storage, hydropower and recreation. Every authorized use of a Corps project allows the surrounding communities to realize a greater potential for economic development and improves the quality of life for those who depend on the infrastructure either directly or indirectly. 

The challenge before us today is to understand the full need for repairing and maintaining our current infrastructure and the need for new projects to ensure that the United States remains globally competitive and our communities continue to reap the benefits of the Army Corps’ infrastructure. 

With the topic of infrastructure in the news during the election cycle and within the new administration, the time is now to work toward solutions to meeting these needs through both public funding and private financing. 

Thank you to our witnesses for coming in to testify today. I look forward to hearing what you have to say on the subject. 

We appreciate your participation and involvement with these important issues.