Floor Statement on Hurricane Preparedness
MR. REED: Mr. President, as indicated previously, I would like to make a short statement pertaining to the supplemental appropriations conference report before us. It is interesting; my colleague from Florida spoke about the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. One of those lessons is we have to be prepared. In Rhode Island, we worked with Chairman Cochran, Ranking Member Byrd, and also with Senator Harry Reid to incorporate within the supplemental appropriations bill an appropriation to help prepare our hurricane barrier in Providence, RI. I thank the chairman, Senator Byrd, and Senator Reid for this effort. Unfortunately, this provision did not survive the conference committee, and we are not able today to tell the people of Rhode Island that we are giving them much needed help to strengthen the Fox Point hurricane barrier. The Fox Point hurricane barrier literally is the protection that will preserve Providence, RI, and the surrounding areas from a devastating hurricane. It protects the city. It protects all the key resources there, such as the infrastructure. It is right at the head of Narragansett Bay. That is where Providence sits, and in a hurricane, if it roars up that bay, there is not much to stop it except this barrier. It was built in the 1960s. It was at that time a modern, state-of-the-art construction, but the years have intervened. It is no longer a state-of-the-art construction. It needs work. It needs the electro-mechanical system control system replaced. It is one of the few major facilities in the country that I think is still operated by its original electrical components. The barrier employs three 35-foot-high gates that are electronically operated. This is not only to keep the water out, but to make sure they can still continue to pump water from the rivers that back up the hurricane barrier. Now, most people don't think Rhode Island is the prime target of hurricanes, but in 1938 and in 1954 we were dealt devastating blows. In fact, the damage from the hurricane in 1938 in those dollars was $125 million. Today it would be $1 billion. Hurricane Carol in 1954 flooded Providence, leaving the city under 8 feet of water and destroying 4,000 houses. So we have a need to help the city upgrade these facilities to provide the kind of improved equipment and improved performance that will assure us that if a hurricane comes--and we all know that eventually they will come to Rhode Island and to the rest of the eastern seaboard--we will be prepared. Again, I thank the chairman and others for their work to put the money in, and I am disappointed that the money was taken out. I hope that in the future we can find another way in which we can protect the people of Providence, RI, and the whole State of Rhode Island. Mr. President, with that, I once again congratulate Senator Byrd, and I yield the floor.