By Gilbert Hoffman
HIGHLANDS – Brian Babin, Congressman for the 36th District of Texas, was in Highlands this week to speak with the Rotary Club.
His topics ranged from national to local subjects in which he is involved. He sits on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which includes NASA, and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which includes the Port of Houston and the Ship Channel.
Locally Babin was instrumental, along with Congressman Gene Green, in getting the Waste Pits in the San Jacinto River designated on the EPA’s national Superfund List.
Babin noted that his district has a great number of transportation facilities that are important to the economic strength of the nation. These include four port in his District TX-36, the port and ship channel, and Interstate I-10. He said the closing of lanes on the bridge is unacceptable, and harmful to the local and national economy. He said that TxDOT is working on a plan that would replace the highway and bridge at the river with a suspension bridge, anchored on each shore but with no supporting columns below in the river. This is similar to Baytown’s Fred Hartman bridge. He cautioned, however, that a project like this takes a long time to become reality. In the meantime, he is working with the Corps of Engineers to get more secure moorings for barges in the river, to minimize any possible damage to the bridge again.
He is also working with the Corps to get legislation to dredge and widen the ship channel, important to continued economic growth in the region.
Babin touted the economy under the present Republican administration, noting that more people are working than in any past time, and that there were 6.2 million more jobs created in the Trump years.
He indicated that he backed the Republican policies on such matters has healthcare reform, saying that the Democratic plan for single payer would result in “socialism takeover” and higher costs. He said you can’t have mandates, because you lose the freedom of the marketplace.
Babin supported the recent trade agreement known as USMCA, saying it would create jobs and save jobs. He said, “It is a major victory for American workers.”
He also supports the new trade agreement with China, and praised Trump for standing up to inequities that have existed for years. Other issues he supports include Second Amendment Gun rights, and the Pro-Life position against abortions.
On immigration, he said that open borders are dangerous, letting in known criminals. He said there are 1.2 million illegal aliens in the U.S. They have had deportation hearings, but just won’t leave. He said that Democrats want to offer them free healthcare, but the average American ends up having to pay for this with increased costs for their health insurance.
He also praised Trump for his recent position on allowing prayers in schools and public meetings.
Babin answered questions from the audience, including several on the closing of the I-10 bridge, and the removal of toxic waste from the river.
Johnny Gaeke pointed out that the area has had a restricted or closed bridge for one whole year, with 3 major accidents. Although he doesn’t think it is feasible to limit barges north of the bridge, he says they could be moored more safely.
Working with the EPA Region 6 in Dallas, Babin said the timeline for removal of the Waste Pits was Oct. 2019 EPA will issue notice letters to the responsible parties to begin settlement negotiations for implementation of the final design; Feb. 2020 Maintenance activities are planned to repair erosion from Imelda and to place additional rock on the current cap; May 2020 EPA is to receive intermediate remediation designs; and Jan 2021 Final Designs documents are due.