The Northeast has been hit by the third major Nor’easter storm this winter as March does its best to remind the East Coast that winter isn’t finished with us.
Meteorologists are calling DC a “weather hole.” We’ve been called worse, but this honor is being bestowed because it has snowed to the south and north of us during each of the storms this season without hitting DC. All swamps aren’t bad I guess.
Funding: We’re expecting to see the House version of a funding bill for the current fiscal year today or tomorrow. The devil will be in the details – and I don’t mean the dollars. Everything from making not-so-technical corrections to the recently passed tax bill to adding amendments related to immigration and funding the wall will mean that we go down to the March 23rd wire to avoid a gov’t shutdown. I predict the House bill will have a lot of excess baggage, with the Senate then stripping out enough of it and then sending it back to the House where votes from Dems will be needed for final passage. It’s amazing that elected officials can fund gov’t agencies for 12 months by providing all of those funds half-way into the year. Then there’s a race to get all the money obligated before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30th. This is all for FY18 while Corps Districts are preparing their requests for FY20 this month! And let’s add to that the h-u-g-e amount of money Congress provided in February as part of a supplemental disaster appropriation – it was well above the total the Corps gets in one year’s normal funding bill, and I’m not even talking about the emergency funding. Rehearsals are already underway for the dancers preparing to work their dark magic so that hurricanes this summer fund the beach nourishment program again like they have over the past 13 years!
WRDA: The House T&I committee is holding a hearing tomorrow on the projects the administration is recommending for WRDA ’16. Ariel Wittenberg reported in E&E News last week (subscription) that the 7 projects being recommended by the Corps “are just a fraction of the 34 requests from local sponsors the Army Corps reviewed before compiling its [recommendations].” Anyone with information about the Missing 27? Please let me know.
Look for the Senate WRDA bill to contain something that tries to alter the way the Corps’ Benefit-Cost Ratio works. Although it’s a complicated subject, I’ve got a 1-page fact sheet and a slightly longer backgrounder that explains the related issues of the BCR and what counts as a benefit. Almost two dozen conservation and outdoor recreation interests included the BCR in their 2018 WRDA requests, as did the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association and the American Association of Port Authorities. The BCR and related issues hit all types of flood control projects especially hard. I’ve got a listing of projects whose eligibility for funding is endangered by the BCR-problem throughout the nation.
Move the Corps to DOT?: Earlier this month, T&I Committee Chairman Shuster said that he was considering adding to WRDA a provision to move the civil works missions of the Corps to either the Department of Transportation or the Interior Department. It’s not the first time someone has made a similar proposal, and this one’s not likely to get any further than its predecessors. My favorite among the two is Interior --- perhaps alongside the Fish and Wildlife Service!
CBRA: Speaking of the FWS, they are proposing new Coastal Barrier Resource Act maps for New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Public input is requested.
Infrastructure: Was I the only one who missed the Senate Democrats’ rollout of their infrastructure plan? It proposes real spending as opposed to the Administration’s plan, which even the Congressional Research Service says asks more of state and local governments than they will receive. So, don’t hold your breath for anything more than some rollback of regulations that more-than-some folks claim are delaying infrastructure projects. Also, the career folks at the White House Office of Management and Budget has finally found an administration that likes its proposals that I call: You Pay and We’ll Play. As long as non-federal interests will pay, OMB wants to find a way to take infrastructure responsibilities off the fiscal back of Uncle Sam.
Important Tidbits: Maryland’s holding it’s first State of the Coast conference May 21-23….The rollback of the Obama Administration’s Executive Order on Floodplain Management and Protection of Wetlands can be found here….The House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee is holding a hearing on the proposed FY19 Corps budget Ass’t Army Secretary R.D. James testifying. You can get his testimony here.
So long for now from your Nation’s Capital where the lights are on 24/7/365.