The Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), held a hearing this morning to receive testimony from the Army Corps of Engineers on their proposed budget and program priorities for Fiscal Year 2013.
The Corps of Engineers provides water resources development projects for the nation, usually through cost-sharing partnerships with nonfederal sponsors. The appropriation request in the Administration's FY 2013 budget submittal for the Corps of Engineers is $4.731 billion.
"For too long, this Administration has short-changed and mis-prioritized the projects and programs of this agency," said Chairman Gibbs. "I believe we must be supportive of programs that have a proven record of providing economic benefits.
Gibbs continued, "In 2011, we had some of the worst flooding on record in this country. In 2014, it is likely an expanded Panama Canal will become operational. Yet, the President proposes to cut approximately $20 million from flood damage reduction activities and once again short-changes the navigation budget. The President is once again proposing to spend only half of money being collected for harbor maintenance.
"Only if our ports and waterways are at their authorized depths and widths will products be able to move to their overseas destinations in an efficient and economical manner," Gibbs added. "Once again, only 2 of the nation's 10 largest ports are at their authorized depths and widths. The President's budget does nothing to ensure the competitiveness of American products in world markets. That hurts businesses and costs us jobs.
"Given the fact that the navigation projects and the flood damage reduction projects provide economic benefits to the nation, I would like to see the Administration place a higher priority on these types of water resources investment," said Gibbs. Savings could be found by slowing down work on some environmental restoration projects until the economy turns around. In some cases, the Corps of Engineers places unnecessary hurdles in its own way to complete studies and projects. We have heard the Corps sometimes agrees to conduct additional studies on a project for information they don't really need just to avoid a lengthy lawsuit. In many other cases, out-dated laws written by Congress or one-size-fits-all regulations from other federal agencies will delay or even kill a project.
"I don't necessarily want to repeal any environmental or coordination requirement, but all of us have to make the whole process more efficient. In today's economy, delaying a project is synonymous with killing it. And killing a project in this way means lost economic opportunity and lost jobs," Gibbs concluded.