Rep. Huffman Shines Light on Need for Dredging of the Petaluma River & San Rafael Canal During Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Hearing
Washington- This week, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) drew much-needed congressional attention to the urgent and long-overdue need for dredging in both the Petaluma River and the San Rafael Canal at a hearing in the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on “The Cost of Doing Nothing: Why Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and Investment in our Nation’s Waterways Matter.”
“Perhaps in the next WRDA we should just end the charade and create a new category for ports the Army Corps has simply forgotten about or left behind,” said Rep. Huffman in yesterday’s hearing. “This system is not working and is in fact insulting to communities that play by the rules and still lose, every year, every single time.”
You can watch the full clip here:
The full text of Rep. Huffman’s remarks can be found below:
The topic of today’s hearing is to discuss the role that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plays in the maintenance of our nation’s harbors, categorizing our ports as “high use,” “moderate” and “emerging.”
I have to say, the euphemism “emerging” is insulting, given that the communities I represent feel like their ports and waterways have been particularly neglected and abandoned. I represent this area and it was once dredged every 3-4 years to maintain channel depth – it has not been dredged since 2003 and the across the flats section was last dredged in 1998. Perhaps in the next WRDA we should just end the charade and create a new category for ports the Army Corps has simply forgotten about or left behind. And I can come up with more colorful terminology if you talk to my constituents I assure you.
This system is not working and is in fact insulting to communities that play by the rules and still lose, every year, every single time.
Now, there are other members who have served longer than I have, certainly, but this is year seven for me and I am already sick and tired of the annual cycle of begging OMB and the Corps during the development of the President’s Budget Request, then to turn from disappointment to pleading for support through the Work Plan. And in the end, when no assistance is provided by the Corps, being reassured there’s always next year. This is a con game.
And I would like to ask unanimous consent to enter into the record letters that I have written going back to 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and January of 2019, where we are begging and pleading with the Corps to address these issues. It spans two different administrations, showcases years of failed responses by the Army Corps of Engineers. So Mr. Chair, I would like to enter into the record six of these letters that I have written on this subject.
And I would invite the committee to come out to the Petaluma River and hold a hearing on how we are failing small communities. Because the witnesses before us today, and I very much appreciate the testimony but from what I can tell most of you folks are doing pretty well by the status quo. Ms. Brady, I’ve been out to your community and I appreciate you’ve made the point very well how important commercial fishing is to your region.
Believe me, as Chair of the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee at Natural Resources, I understand that. And I want to see your community taken care of but in your testimony you mentions maintenance dredges in Montauk in 2008, 2012, and 2018, and relatively consistent dredges elsewhere in the area. I’m representing a community that hasn’t been dredged, again, jut a partial dredge since 2003 and over 20 years since the entire channel.
I’m sure you can imagine how devastating that lack of attention by the Army Corps can be to a community. So if we want to talk about a hearing showcasing the cost of doing nothing, let’s come to Petaluma, or let’s go to the San Rafael canal another part of my district where we are seeing similar neglect and abandonment by the Corps and I am happy to work with my colleagues and any of you here on ways to fully utilize the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund but I want to make sure as we go forward that we’re also taking care of these neglected and abandoning communities and not simply redirecting more funds to communities that have been relatively well maintained by the status quo.
I have a little time left. If any of you have anything you would like to say to the people of Petaluma—and other communities I am sure around this country where shallow dredge projects have simply been abandoned and forgotten—I will leave the balance of my time to you.