“When the word ‘infrastructure’ comes up, most people think of steel and concrete, bridges and ports,” began the testimony of Mr. Anthony Pratt (President, American Shore and Beach Preservation Association) to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
He continued, “But I’m here to talk about water and coastal infrastructure that is just as critical to the American economy and creates (and protects) just as many jobs, but does so with sand and sediment, roots and grass.” During a hearing on modernizing our nation’s infrastructure, the committee mostly discussed funding issues pertaining to rural inland states. However, as one of the five witnesses, Mr. Pratt stressed the importance of water and coastal infrastructure to jobs, the economy, safety, and tourism. He detailed examples of how these investments are critical to risk management and listed shore protections that proved crucial in preventing further damage during Hurricane Sandy.
While infrastructure improvements receive bipartisan support, a common theme in the discussion was the challenge of funding, as well as skepticism over the ability to fully fund these projects with public-private partnerships (a Trump administration talking point that has yet to include an associated spending proposal). Chairman John Barrasso (WY) stressed that direct federal spending is crucial because smaller projects in particular cannot as easily attract private sector partnerships. Ranking Member Thomas Carper (DE) suggested the possibility of repatriating overseas corporate income and raising fuel taxes, saying private partnerships can only be “a piece of the puzzle.” While the best methods to improve our nation’s infrastructure remain to be agreed upon, there was bipartisan accord about the need to do so.