Click here or the image above to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled, “Water Resources Development Act 2024: USACE Water Infrastructure Projects, Programs, and Priorities.”

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as delivered.

“Thank you, Chairman Carper, thanks for having the meeting. And we're working well, I think, towards keeping the record of reauthorizing every two years.

“Secretary Connor and General Spellmon, wonderful to have you here today.

“You might recall the last time you both were before the Committee, we discussed a project that is incredibly exciting for my home state of West Virginia, the Nucor steel plant in Mason County.

“Once the plant begins commercial operations it will employ hundreds of full-time employees in an area where jobs are desperately needed.

“I want to take a moment to thank you, your staffs, and the team at the Huntington District for your assistance and personal attention to this project.

“I am pleased to say that Nucor broke ground on the site last October.

“This would not have been possible without your support and hard work. I will say just for the audience, listening and you all probably know this, at the groundbreaking a Guinness Book of World Records was broken. It was the largest groundbreaking ever with 545 shovels. So, look it up in your Guinness book. It was very exciting for the community. Every high school senior was there with the shovel.

“Since 2014, the Committee has kept to a biennial schedule of passing bipartisan legislation that authorizes water resources studies and projects.

“WRDA also sets national policies for the Civil Works Program at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“I look forward to continuing that track record this year as I stated earlier.

“Last year, Chairman Carper and I…sent a letter to our Senate colleagues soliciting their requests for WRDA 2024.

“I must say WRDA 2024 is becoming very popular. I am pleased to say that we received a significant number of requests, more than last time, which demonstrates the strong interest in, and necessity of, this legislation.

“As the Chairman and I have both said repeatedly, WRDA 2024 will not be a policy-heavy bill. 

“Instead, the legislation will focus on authorizing new or modifying existing studies and projects, as well as making much-needed technical changes to prior provisions in order to better reflect the intent of Congress.

“This limited scope will enable the Corps to focus the energy and resources on fully implementing prior WRDA provisions, which will ensure that the Agency continues to be responsive to water resource needs.

“As I have previously stated, it is important that any WRDA bill supports the timely and efficient delivery of water resources projects, while continuing to meet national priorities.

“Flexibility, we’ve heard this over and over again, is key to ensuring that the Corps can identify and carry out solutions that are tailored to address the needs of each individual community. 

“We must also continue to preserve the role of non-federal sponsors in this project and maintain the Corps’ focus on its primary mission areas: navigation, flood and coastal storm risk management, and ecosystem restoration.

“I would like to extend my appreciation to the staff at the Corps as the Chairman stated, some of the here and many of them all across the country, for their engagement with the Committee as we oversee the implementation of WRDA 2022 and prior WRDAs.

“However, I am concerned about the Corps’ fulfillment of some of these provisions.

“As Ranking Member, one of my priorities across the Committee’s jurisdiction is improving the environmental review and permitting processes for all types of infrastructure projects, while not sacrificing important environmental provisions.

“These processes need to move forward in a timely and predictable manner so that communities can realize the benefits of these projects for a whole lot of reasons.

“I am proud that WRDA 2022 contained a provision that furthers this goal, which is NEPA reporting.

“Unfortunately, more than a year after enactment, this important provision is still not implemented.

“Earlier this month, the Corps informed the Committee that it will need $3 million to set up this reporting system and another system from WRRDA 2014, 10 years ago, also needs another $2.5 million a year to maintain these systems.

“Recent WRDAs have also included provisions designed to reduce the financial burden on non-federal sponsors in economically disadvantaged communities.

“Much of my home state of West Virginia qualifies as economically disadvantaged and could benefit from these provisions.

“Regrettably, some of these provisions have yet to be fully implemented, or even begun, which means critical projects are not moving forward.

“It was clear from my Senate colleagues’ requests that many of the provisions in prior WRDAs are also facing delays and obstacles.

“This hearing in part is part of the Committee’s ongoing oversight of the Corps and the agency’s efforts to carry out these laws.

“We will closely examine whether or not the Corps has made the implementation of certain provisions needlessly more complicated than Congress intended them to be.

“I look forward to discussing all of these issues in more detail with our witnesses.

“Today, we will also learn about the Corps’ priorities for WRDA 2024.

“I will be particularly interested in which priorities require legislative language and which can be carried out through existing authorities.

“Secretary Connor and General Spellmon, again, thank you for your continued commitment to transparency and accountability, and accessibility… as well as your insights on these matters.

“I also want to acknowledge and thank the staff across the Corps enterprise for their efforts to provide the Committee with technical assistance on the various WRDA requests that we received from our Senate colleagues.

“The technical assistance is a vital part of our legislative process and we greatly appreciate the responses.

“The work of the Corps has and will continue to make a difference in communities across the country, and particularly my state.”

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