Our investigative pigeon on Capitol Hill tells us that WRDA will be on the floor this week, likely Thursday, and maybe minibus #1. Officials are racing to beat the storm.
Storm or no storm, we are satisfied with the progress Congress has made with this year’s key appropriations bills. According to Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, “this represents [Congress’] strong commitment to return to ‘regular order’ in government funding.”
BUT the storm IS coming, and you need to be prepared. FEMA is stockpiling resources at incident support bases along the coast in North and South Carolina. FEMA teams have been sent to both states where they will serve as "rapidly deployable assets, with expertise in operations, logistics, planning, and recovery." Inland flooding will be a forceful hazard from this storm, please beware.
Florence Spinning - Image: International Space Station (NASA)
The conference report for HR 5895 has been filed and here is what you need to know - $7 billion will go to the Corps of Engineers, an increase of $172 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. Funding in this year’s resolution is targeted towards national security efforts and energy and water resources infrastructure investments. The extra $172 million will aid the Corps’ efforts to improve navigation and flood control structures. This year an extra $2.5 million will be going towards federal coastal related programs based on figures from last year. Click here for our FY19 table of Federal Shore Protection funding.
Civil Works Reorganization Proposal is void without Congressional authorization. On July 30th, the Secretary of Defense approved a Secretary of the Army memo that described moving the Civil Works program from the Corps to DOT and DOI. Not only do the conferees disagree with the proposal due to the uncertainty that reorganization could have for the implementation of the Civil Works program, but also due to the growing number of non-Federal entities that rely on the Corps for technical expertise and disaster assistance. Members of Congress expressed concern that the proposal was not properly brought before Congress, and notification and discussion with members was ‘nonexistent.’ The conferees agreed that no funds from this Act or any previous Act shall be used to implement a reorganization proposal. Click here to read Howard’s blog post on the Corps’ reorganization.
The Water Resources Principles and Guidelines used by the Corps dates back to 1983. Newer versions were developed for 2013, but this Act prohibits the use of funds to develop the document further. I think it’s time to update our principles and guidelines. Click here to take a step 35 years into the past. This is to guide the formulation and evaluation studies of major water resources projects. It is quoted as ‘the best’ method for calculating benefit and costs for water resources development alternatives. I would like to see this updated for 2018.
The agreement includes language regarding budget structure changes. We’ll have to wait and see what they are.
A report on Flood and Storm Damage Reduction (FSDR) Business Line is required to be delivered to the Committee on Appropriations in both Houses within 180 days after the date of enactment. This report will also define a ‘coastal project’ versus an ‘inland project’ and will a list of funding for the last 10 fiscal years of funding allocated to coastal and inland projects within the FSDR business line. Most importantly, the figures will show an analysis of how funding allocated has compared to the work needed in coastal areas.
Non-Federal reimbursement will be covered in a report to Congress that will list all cost-shared projects and the amount owed back to non-Federals. The report will also disclose the status of returning those funds and a document accounting the entire project. $25,000,000 is set aside for reimbursements of executed project cooperation agreements that have completed construction or where non-Federal sponsors intended to use the funds for additional water resources development activities.
The new starts in the agreement include six in investigations and five in construction. Of those 5 new construction starts, “in the appropriate categories, the Corps shall consider selection of a coastal storm damage reduction project.”
Preconstruction Engineering and Design has a strong focus in this resolution’s additional funding account – “The agreement includes sufficient additional funding to undertake a significant amount of feasibility and PED work.” The language reiterates that a study is not complete until PED is complete and the Corps is expected to allocate additional funding in this account primarily to specific feasibility and PED phases, rather than to remaining line items as has been the case in previous Work Plans.
Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies (FCCE) account is funded at $35,000,000 and the additional funding for Shore Protection between the Investigation and Construction accounts totals $57,000,000.
The Continuing Authorities Program (CAP) is funded at $62,500,000 above the budget request, totaling $66,000,000.
Coastal Inlets Research Program (CIRP) – Congress understands that the growing number of people and infrastructure along the coasts creates greater risk for the nation. Coastal inlets are a vulnerability to our coastal infrastructure and those who live nearby. Funding in addition to the budget request will establish a multi-university effort to identify coastal resilience needs, develop adaptive strategies and improve coastal modeling of wave action and the erosive forces of storms.
Specific Projects & Programs – Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Pilot Program, Camp Ellis Beach (Saco, Maine), and the Gulf and Chesapeake Oyster Restoration program have direction in the final bill.
Finally, the Office of Assistant Secretary for the Army for Civil works is restricted in the availability of office funding until a work plan is submitted that allocates 95% of the additional funding items in each account.