Sen. Harry Reid pushes for national public works plan in Incline speech |

Sen. Harry Reid pushes for national public works plan in Incline speech

INCLINE VILLAGE -Not since the Marshall Plan has America’s public works needed renovating as seriously as it does now, according to Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.

Nevada’s most powerful U.S. senator in history outlined the kinds of projects needed throughout the nation as he addressed an audience at Sierra Nevada College’s sixth annual forum Saturday morning.

Reid was elected majority whip unanimously by his colleagues after the Democrats took over control of the Senate. As chief of the environment and infrastructure committee, Reid has been taking a long, hard look at the state of the nation’s highways, bridges and sewer systems.

“People are afraid to talk about it because of the money situation,” Reid said. He said the United States needs a sort of Works Projects Administration to revive the state of the nation. He said the necessary work is being neglected because “repair and construction costs accrue in the short-term while the benefits are long-term.”

The work will provide jobs and renew the manufacturing segment of the economy, which will be needed to supply the materials for rebuilding the aging infrastructures.

“America’s infrastructure affects our economy, our public health, our environment and our overall quality of life,” he said in his forum. The work is tied directly to the environment.

Because the west is relatively young, infrastructures have not become as old as many of the systems in the eastern part of the United States, he said, so it’s more a matter of catching up with growth than replacing outdated, worn-down systems.

“The nation’s 5,400 drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of $11 billion needed to replace facilities near the end of their useful life and to comply with the Clean Water Act,” he said.

“When I first ran for the Senate in 1986 a reporter asked me what I thought was the biggest challenge facing the state,” he said in his address at the college. “I said water. Water is infrastructure.”

“Fallon, Nevada cannot without federal help have water for its inhabitants not poisoned with arsenic,” he added.

The relationship between the environment and people’s health is becoming more apparent, particularly with issues such as the leukemia cluster in Fallon. He said the situation compares with a similar one in New York. He’d recently met with senators Hilary Clinton and Jim Jeffords about the issue.

“We need to develop a protocol so we don’t need to keep reinventing the wheel every time something like this happens,” he said.

“I’m sure it’s linked to the environment in some way,” he said, answering a question about it.

Reid was asked about nuclear waste in Nevada, and said he told former Gov. Robert List he was disappointed in his decision to compromise on the issue.

“In my opinion, there’s nothing to negotiate,” Reid said. He’s become a politician with muscles to flex. His role as whip could likely confirm SNC Pres. James Ash’s introductory words: “Senator Reid is Nevada’s secret weapon in Washington.”

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