WASHINGTON, October 23 -
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the chairman for the inclusion of the provisions in the bill to help expedite environmental reviews and for the language that was requested by myself and Congressman Farenthold which would help increase private investment in our Nation's ports and expedite the completion of large critical projects.
One important project that is authorized in this bill is the deepening of the Sabine-Neches Waterway. I have been working on the authorization of this project since I was elected in 2004. My predecessors, Nick Lampson and Jack Brooks, worked on this project. Mr. Weber, who now represents this area, has been working on this project. In fact, the original Chief's Report for the Sabine-Neches Waterway was authorized to begin in 1997, 16 years ago. That was three Presidents ago. It was in the last century.
Since that time, all four of my kids have finished high school, graduated from college, gotten married, and have given me 10 grandkids. The United States has fought two major wars. Sixteen years to do an authorization on a Federal project--something is wrong with this picture, Mr. Speaker.
This project was supposed to cost $300 million. Today, if it is authorized, it will be $1.1 billion. That is a 287 percent increase, and we still haven't moved any dirt. There is something wrong with this picture, Mr. Speaker.
That is why this WRRDA bill is so important. It makes critical structural improvements to the way the Corps of Engineers does business so we can end these absurd delays. It shouldn't take 20 years to complete a project, and I'm talking about authorization just to approve a project, like the Sabine-Neches Waterway.
The Sabine-Neches Waterway is critical to America's energy and national security. It was first authorized at 40 feet. This WRRDA bill will make the depth 48 feet, permitting deeper draft vessels to come through. Right now, tankers that come up the Sabine-Neches Waterway can't be full because they drag bottom. They have to offload part of their fuel before they come up the waterway. That is why this is important to the United States.
It is also vital to the United States military. The Sabine-Neches Waterway, actually is the home of the largest commercial military out-load port in America, and it is the second-largest military port in the world. The channel is home to two designated military strategic seaports: Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas.
Additionally, 20 to 30 percent of the Nation's commercial jet fuel and a significant majority and classified amount of our military's jet fuel is produced on the Sabine-Neches Waterway.
This is the energy corridor of the United States. Refineries line this entire waterway. Delays by the Corps of Engineers have cost millions of dollars, all because they cannot make up their mind to approve the project.
Mr. Speaker, pick a horse and ride it. Either approve the project or deny the project, but make up your mind. These delays are absurd.
And that's just the way it is.