By U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg
The Water Resources Development Act is about strengthening our water infrastructure, and nowhere have we been more reminded of the need to improve our water infrastructure than in my state of New Jersey.
A little more than two weeks ago, Super Storm Sandy slammed into the Jersey Shore with massive force. That storm claimed the lives of at least 119 people in the U.S., including 33 in New Jersey.
Throughout my state, we have seen catastrophic damage caused by Super Storm Sandy, which collided with infrastructure that was unprepared for its force. For example, damage from Sandy caused the largest port on the East Coast – serving more than one-third of the country – to be shut down for more than a week.
This storm sounds the alarm that the federal government must invest in infrastructure to not only recover from this storm, but also build it stronger so we are prepared for the next storm.
Up and down the Jersey Shore, storm surges have destroyed neighborhoods, ruined businesses and displaced families. The boardwalks that many of us grew up enjoying have been swept away, along with the homes and memories of many New Jerseyans.
However, the silver lining is that early assessments show that areas of the coast that had finished Army Corps beach projects were not damaged as badly as areas that did not have Army Corps projects in place. This shows that wider beaches and dunes reduce storm damage. We need to build more of these projects to reduce future losses.
But some of the Army Corps projects themselves were damaged during the storm. Currently, the Corps only repairs these damaged projects to their previous condition. I believe we need to give the Corps the authority to build those projects back better than they were before.
During Sandy, we also saw outdated water infrastructure lead to two water treatment facilities breaking down, with millions of gallons of sewage leaking into Newark Bay as a result. This shouldn’t happen. There’s no excuse not to have modernized water infrastructure.
As we move forward with the WRDA bill, I want to work with you, Madam Chairman, and members of the committee to strengthen our infrastructure.
Super Storm Sandy was unprecedented, but scientists tell us that storms like it will become more and more frequent.
A new WRDA bill must equip us with the tools to take on the enormous challenges ahead. As we undertake this task, I look forward to working together to pass a strong WRDA bill, so New Jersey has what it needs to recover and our country is ready when the next storm strikes.
U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) delivered the above remarks Nov. 15 during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the Water Resources Development Act.