Hurricane Season: June 1st marks the beginning of hurricane season with a bunch of named storms predicted this year. Until Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, it was fairly accurate to say that the U.S. is good at responding to disasters. Not that responses to Katrina and Ike were faultless by any means, but we threw people and money at our national disaster response. We let the people of Puerto Rico down by not having big generators in position to fill in for their fragile electricity grid within days—not months. And we can no longer accept rebuilding to pre-storm conditions in Puerto Rico or anywhere. It’s millions-of-dollars-stupid to rebuild a decrepit system to its decrepit state. Who pays for rebuilding it to a strong standard? Who pays for adding dunes to a Federal project that was built without dunes? Right now, you and I foot the multi-billion dollar bill. Taxpayers will continue to pay 5 to 6 times more than we need to pay if government had only invested in rebuilding infrastructure to meet modern needs and spending on PRE-disaster mitigation.
Corps Work Plan: Be at your work stations on Monday the 11th at Noon Eastern Time for release of the Corps’ Fiscal 2018 Work Plan. The multi-billion supplemental funding will NOT be included in this release. Give that another 2 weeks, but don’t bet the silverware on it making it even then. There has been a massive delay in getting this Work Plan out—it was due May 22nd. Regardless of the meddling of the Office of Management and Budget, the major blame rests on Congress. Year after year, Congress cannot pass funding legislation anywhere close to the October 1st deadline. When it finally acted in March of this year, half of the fiscal year was gone! Agencies then rush to spend money before the end of the fiscal year and make hurried decisions. It’s no way to run a government, and the people who get re-elected saying they are for fiscal responsibility have to put your tax dollars to better use by actually being fiscally responsible.
House Passes WRDA 2018: With only two votes in opposition, the House has passed its version of the Water Resources Development Act. That’s good news. But forgive me if I toss in a dose of reality. The policy provisions in the House and Senate WRDA bills are written by Congress with no input from the Administration and none from Corps Headquarters. It wasn’t always that way, and it shouldn’t be that way. Throwing nice-sounding provisions in there to get the bill passed is a political necessity, but (a) they don’t come with a single dollar of funding, and (b) the good staffers on the Hill sometimes use the wrong words.
Take for example the words in the House WRDA bill that a shore protection project (aka beach, aka coastal storm risk management project) an be rebuilt to either pre-storm conditions or to its “authorized level of protection.” Sounds great doesn’t it. But there is no authorized level of protection for any of those projects. That leaves it to the budgeteers and barristers to figure out what the term means and (surprise) they already did that a few years ago. According to them, design level of protection is actually less sand and smaller dunes than pre-storm conditions! It’s like post-Sandy when the appropriations committee used the word “flood” in its massive funding bill and Corps Headquarters said “That means none of this money can be spent on any project that doesn’t meet the requirements of our flood business line.” That’s simply not smart since it doesn’t give the Corps a chance to put a dollar into environmental restoration or any of those natural/nature-based features that Congress says (in WRDA) that it wants the Corps to use! And….I’m on a roll here so bear with me…we’ll get this couple married here in a moment…the congressional authorizers never talk to the appropriators and vice versa. You can authorize all the fancy new buses you want, but it doesn’t mean a thing if it hasn’t got money attached! Okay—congrats to the House for passing WRDA and let’s hope the Senate gets its version passed before Labor Day.
PS – We’ll have a link to the WRDA bill text as passed as well as a summary of its provisions next week.