LLPH announced our intention to score against H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. While we praise the members of the conference committees for working hard to prevent earmarks from being included in this bill, it continues to fail to get the government out of water projects throughout the nation. We believe that local control is a better option and we do not support the continued use of the Army Corp of Engineers for such projects.
Here are some specific sections we object to:
Sec. 1037 – Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction.
Pre-authorizes studies for beach renourishment projects that are reaching the end of their 50-year authorized life. In addition, any project where authorization is expiring within five years (i.e. first authorized in 1969 or earlier) the renourishment authority is extended for three more years. Furthermore, projects in this category are not to be considered a “new start” which would put them ahead of new authorizations for getting funds.
From our friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense: Zombie Beaches survive conference! These projects have been ongoing for 50 years. There was adequate time to plan for what is next and giving them an automatic short term extension followed by longer term extension is unwarranted. They should have been going through the normal process years ago if they were seeking additional authorization. These projects will be eligible for Medicare by the time they expire.
Sec. 1043 – Non-Federal Implementation Pilot Program.
Establishes pilot programs for non-federal interests to develop feasibility studies and receive credit for their work in the construction phase. Also a pilot program to have non-federal interests construct projects.
(Just a note: When you see the government creating pilot programs, you need to turn red alert on!) TCS Statement: This seems like a recipe for waste. First off, today not all feasibility studies result in project recommendations, nor should they. That might change under the new system, where the non-federal interest supporting the project does the study. Since they are spending money to get construction credit, recommending the project moves forward is clearly in their interest. This is not the same as contracting out. Under this provision there is no competition or bid. There will also be little federal savings because everything is reimbursed which can serve to increase costs, especially if the work is not up to par and has to be redone.
Sec. 2006 – Preserving the Inland Waterway Trust Fund.
This provision increases the federal treasury share of construction costs at Olmsted lock and dam (Ohio River) from 50 percent to 85 percent. It also includes a sense of Congress that expenditures on this project should not be less than $150 million per year. The section also changes the definition of major rehabilitation for locks and dams to those costing at least $20 million up from the existing threshold of $8 million.
TCS: Bailing out the barge industry from its financial responsibilities is a direct threat to long-established cost share rules. Forcing federal taxpayers to cover 85% of the cost of Olmsted sets a precedent for users to get out of having to pay their fair share for every future over-budget and long-delayed Corps project. The change to the definition of rehabilitation means barge interests will no longer have to share in the costs of lock and dam rehabilitation unless it is estimated to cost more than $20 million, effectively relieving them of any financial responsibility for the navigation locks built exclusively for the interest of the inland waterways shipping industry.
Final Analysis by TCS:
The Conference report on H.R. 3080 is a missed opportunity to reform management of our nation’s infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner. Faced with a $17.5 trillion debt, a Corps of Engineers construction backlog exceeding $60 billion, and the need for innovation in managing our growing infrastructure burden, conferees from the House and Senate chose instead to mostly continue business as usual. The Water Resources “Reform” and Development Act of 2014 fails to deliver on its “reform” moniker.
LLPH joins the Heritage Foundation and Freedomworks in key voting AGAINST the WRRDA. While some reforms are made, the bad outweighs the good and we must oppose this wasteful bill that continues the majority of status quo. LLPH urges all members of the House of Representatives to vote NO on H.R. 3080 when it comes for a vote likely tomorrow.