Here’s your end of 2021 summary of congressional actions affecting the Corps of Engineers brought to you by WaterLog, the free e-newsletter that brings subscribers a monthly update on developments affecting the nation’s coastal water resources. If you aren’t already a subscriber, just click here.
Congress finally passed a major infrastructure bill. Known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the bill provides over $17 billion for the Corps. Where’s the money going? First, we published a breakdown for our subscribers in November on how the legislation wants the money spent, but there are no earmarks in it. As you read this, Headquarters has given the ASA-CW/OMB its list of proposed projects for an estimated 85-90 percent of the funding in the bill, holding back some funding to be allocated over the next few years. For both studies and construction allocations, there is no “new start” limit. Congress has also repeated support for the ASA Directive published this past January that says that environmental and socio-economic considerations should be factored into determining the final recommended project.
$2.550 billion is designated for coastal storm risk management, hurricane and storm damage reduction projects and related activities (there are geographical limits in the bill), of which $200 million is for “shore protection” (the phrase Congress uses primarily for beach nourishment) projects. The latter are not limited to states that have had federally declared disasters in the last six years while most of the rest of the CG money has to go to disaster areas. Again, read the breakdown we published for more detail because there’s lots of money for PAS and aquatic restoration among other goodies.
Regular & Supplemental Appropriations
At the end of September, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded into FY22 and also to over $3 billion for investigations and construction related to Hurricane Ida. The $887 million for O&M is not limited to areas affected by Ida. The CR also funded the government through December 3rd, a date that has now been extended to February 18th. That means regular Corps FY22 appropriations of about $8 billion won’t be enacted until at least that date.
HQ, ASA & OMB are working now on fitting studies and projects into four different funding opportunities: the Ida Supplemental, the Infrastructure bill, anticipated FY22 regular appropriations, and the FY23 President’s budget. That sets up major work plan and budget announcements for next January and February. WaterLog subscribers will get both the funding information and our analyses into your inbox.
Section 7001 & WRDA
In late November, the ASA’s office released its 2021 Section 7001 report (carrying a February 2021 date since that’s when it was supposed to be released). It included one Chief’s Report and nine proposals from non-federal interests (three new studies, two project modifications, and four modifications of environmental infrastructure authorities). The 2022 report is due out in just over a month. Don’t blame the ASA’s office; the holdups came from OMB. Since 7001 recommendations in main part of the report are supposed to be the basis for new authorizations in WRDA, it will be a short turnaround for the 2022 report which we expect to be on-time.
WRDA 2022 is already being worked on by Congress. The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee had a December 17th deadline for senators to submit requests. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee has yet to ask Representatives for their requests but expect that to happen early next year. Congress will once again have a strong bipartisan majority to pass a WRDA bill, but this year it will be more slimmed down compared to the last two iterations. The big question is whether Congress will authorize studies or construction requests from Members that are not in the Section 7001 reports for 2021 and 2022. We think they will as they move cautiously back to the days when studies could be authorized by Committee Resolution and there was no Section 7001 process.
Check out past WaterLog issues here. As you may know, the WaterLog e-newsletter and our monthly podcast on the American Shoreline Podcast Network are brought to you by Warwick Group Consultants and Coastal Strategies. Since 1984, we have been your one resource for all things related to the Corps, the Coasts and Congress.
We hope you have a happy and healthy holiday!