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Chairwoman Napolitano’s Statement at Hearing on Promoting Resiliency Through WRDA 2020

November 19, 2019
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, DC)  House Transportation and Infrastructure Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairwoman Grace F. Napolitano (D-El Monte) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing titled: “Concepts for the Next Water Resources Development Act: Promoting Resiliency of our Nation’s Water Resources Infrastructure:”

The Corps has defined resiliency as “a holistic approach to addressing threats and uncertainty from acute hazards.” These hazards include more frequent and stronger natural disasters, man-made threats, changing conditions from population shifts, and climate change.

The Corps is the largest water manager in the nation; so it is important for us to understand how the Corps manages its inventory of projects in light of a changing climate, including how it builds resiliency into its decision making. This will be a critical discussion in the formulation of a new water resources development act.

I am already having this discussion of aging infrastructure, changing hydrologic conditions, and how we can better respond to these changes in my district in Southern California.  

We have several Corps facilities, including the Whittier Narrows Dam. It is part of the Los Angeles County Drainage Area flood control system, which collects runoff from the upstream watershed of the San Gabriel River, and controls releases downstream. 

Like many Corps facilities, it is over 50 years old- 62 to be exact.  It is classified by the Corps as a Dam Safety Action Classification-1- the highest classification, because of the potential risks to downstream populations should it fail. I am working closely with the Corps to ensure that the Dam Safety work is started and completed at Whittier Narrows to protect our communities from the threats of today, and the future threats of climate change.

We are also pushing for this work for another important reason, the ability to utilize Whittier Narrows, and other water infrastructure, like Prado Dam, to meet the future needs in the community. We cannot do this if they are falling apart.

In Southern California, over half of our water supply is imported from the Bay Delta or the Colorado River. We experience frequent droughts. We want to be able to utilize existing infrastructure and operate them in a way that meets existing authorized purposes, but also considers other needs, like groundwater recharge and water supply. 

An example of this is with Prado Dam as a potential pilot project for the Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations. This project helped to conserve 12,000 acre-feet of water at Lake Mendocino earlier this year by relying on better forecasting to help guide operations. 

I recognize that what resiliency means for California will be different than what it means for the Midwest, or the Eastern seaboard. However, because Corps projects have a real impact on the everyday lives and livelihoods of American families, and on our local, regional, and national economy, it is important that Corps considers resiliency as part of its mission every day. 

Thank you to our witnesses for being here today. I look forward to hearing your testimony.

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