Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Florida for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today and agree with everything that my good friend and colleague from Florida said–everything that he said–with the exception of the fact that I am opposed to the rule. While I may support the underlying legislation, the rule blocks over 70 amendments, many of which were germane to the bill. This kind of rule is not conducive to an open process.
“The bill, though far from perfect, is long overdue. There is a lot of go-nowhere, do-nothing talk about creating jobs here on the Hill, but this bill, like the highway bill and the farm bill, will actually create jobs.
“The bill also reinforces a point that I have been making for some time, and that is: repairing our Nation’s aging infrastructure, including our water infrastructure, is the best jobs program out there. The resulting economic benefits will ripple from our ports to Main Street America as badly needed jobs across a wide range of industries. For example, every dollar spent on Everglades restoration, like the ones authorized here, is returned fourfold by stimulating related industries like tourism, construction, and retail.
“Despite these undeniable benefits, it has been 7 years since the last WRRDA bill. That is 7 years of productivity lost. But if you think 7 years is a long time, try waiting 17 years, as my colleague Mr. Webster pointed out. That is how long Port Everglades has been waiting for a Chief’s Report from the Army Corps to deepen its channels in anticipation of the new Panama Canal standards. At long last, the report is due shortly, yet this bill fails to authorize the pending project. While much of the blame for the delay falls outside of this Chamber, Congress can and should do right by the port.
“Mr. Speaker, the port has already waited its turn. With the new Panama Canal expansion becoming operational in 2015, any further delay for such a vital piece of our Nation’s infrastructure will be too late.
“I do understand that tough choices have to be made. The way I see it, the Army Corps’ lengthy review process is in part to blame for the backlog of projects. Though this bill contains some partisan measures addressing this issue, the Corps has already begun testing its own way of increasing the speed of review.
“One of these successful tests was the pilot program for the Central Everglades Planning Project, yet that project is not included in this bill either, despite the Chief’s report for CEPP being anticipated within a few months. This new approach, when coupled with a more frequent WRRDA bill, could help eliminate the massive backlog of projects that has forced Congress to make these tough decisions.
“When we look what CEPP actually does, the urgency for authorization is even more obvious. CEPP will help end the discharges of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee that have been devastating Florida communities for years. The water is choked green with algae and killing wildlife, tourism, fishing, and oyster industries, particularly in the Indian River area of our State.
“The people of Florida can’t wait for another WRRDA bill to roll around. The streamlined successful pilot program is infinitely more preferable than the streamlining of environmental review contained in this bill.
“My friends across the aisle seem oddly opposed sometimes to having fresh water and clean air, attacking NEPA and environmental regulations at every opportunity, including otherwise inappropriate vehicles like this bill. But I understand that no one is happy all the time.
“I do have grave reservations about some of the policies in the bill and hope that we can work them out through the legislative process. There is no need for Congress to make the waters rougher than they already are. Let’s continue to do our work constituents sent us here to do.
“I reserve the balance of my time.”