Congresswoman Elaine Luria Advocates for 2nd District Priorities in House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Hearing

May 1, 2019
Press Release
Top Agenda Items Include Chesapeake Bay, Climate Resiliency, Rural Broadband, Sewer Systems, and the Port of Virginia

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02) today pushed the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to consider projects important to Virginia’s Second Congressional District as the panel develops its legislative agenda.

The hearing was an opportunity for members of the House of Representatives to highlight the issues of importance to their constituents as the Committee continues to move forward on its legislative agenda.

Congresswoman Luria’s prepared remarks to the Committee are below. Video can be found here.

Thank you, Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, and to my colleagues on the Committee for giving me this opportunity. I would like to bring a few issues to the Committee’s attention that are critical not only for Coastal Virginia, but for all of America.

The Chesapeake Bay is one of our nation’s greatest natural resources. It generates $33 billion in economic value annually and hosts one of the most important sites for ecological diversity in North America. Thanks to innovative partnerships across the state and federal level, great progress has been made in preserving, protecting, and restoring this crucial ecosystem.

The Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1620) will fully fund the Chesapeake Bay Program for the next five years, ensuring that states get the resources they need to comply with their obligations to protect the Chesapeake Bay. The vast majority of funding for this Program will go directly toward states within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to help them control pollution and manage runoff into the tributaries that feed into the Bay. This bipartisan bill, which I introduced with Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01), will help ensure that the Bay remains a vibrant and beautiful destination for the next generation. I urge the Committee to take up consideration of the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization Act this month.

I also encourage the Committee to act on climate resiliency. For Coastal Virginians and residents of all coastal communities throughout the U.S., sea level rise and recurrent flooding aren’t the basis of political talking points or challenges for the future. They are problems we are dealing with right now, today, this very moment.  For example, a heavy rain and a high tide prevents tens of thousands of sailors from accessing Naval Station Norfolk. On a similar day, I am unable to drive into the parking lot on occasion to pick my daughter up from school. So these are challenges that we face on a daily basis based on rising sea levels. As the Committee develops an infrastructure package, please ensure we are providing communities the resources they need to adapt to rising sea levels.

Another issue the Committee must prioritize in any infrastructure bill is expanding rural broadband. Access to high-speed internet is essential to participating in the modern economy. Reliable, fast internet access can connect people to other communities, health providers, jobs, and even allow them to start their own businesses. Although we have made progress in connecting rural areas to broadband, more work needs to be done. On Virginia’s Eastern Shore in my district, it will cost an estimated $30 million to adequately expand broadband access. The Committee must act to ensure we make the necessary investments in this critical infrastructure so no Americans, especially in rural areas, are left behind.

Other, essential investments in infrastructure cannot be forgotten for rural America. This includes projects such as expanding and modernizing our sewer systems on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, which will provide a much-needed backbone for economic development. Directing federal money to prioritize basic infrastructure needs like this would help economic growth, improve the health of our community, and raise the quality of life across America.

Finally, I encourage the Committee to fund investments in America’s waterways, and specifically the Port of Virginia. Nearly 10 percent of Virginia’s working residents work port-related jobs, and our port enjoys unique advantages with its deep waters, central location, and access to rail. The administration’s budget did not include funding for important dredging projects, so Congress must come to the rescue. Ever-larger ships are carrying record amounts of goods that benefit both Virginia and America as a whole. It makes sense to make room in the federal budget for these investments which will further promote nationwide economic growth.

In addition to the importance of dredging for the Port of Virginia, it is equally pivotal for secondary channels. For example, the Little Machipongo River is a primary aquaculture hub on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, producing some of the largest numbers of shellfish and clams in the country. The navigability of this waterway is vital to the region’s aquaculture industry, which helps employ hundreds of Virginians.

Thank you again for this opportunity to highlight the importance of investing in infrastructure in our districts. I ask members of this Committee on both sides of the aisle to come together and address the critical infrastructure needs of coastal communities like mine. The American people are counting on us and future generations are depending on the investments we make in this Congress.

Background:

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has jurisdiction over all modes of transportation: aviation, maritime and waterborne transportation, highways, bridges, mass transit, and railroads. The Committee also has jurisdiction over other aspects of our national infrastructure, such as clean water and waste water management, the transport of resources by pipeline, flood damage reduction, the management of federally owned real estate and public buildings, the development of economically depressed rural and urban areas, disaster preparedness and response, and hazardous materials transportation.

In addition, the Transportation Committee has broad jurisdiction over the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Coast Guard, Amtrak, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others.

Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.