The Administration is committed to a fiscally responsible Water Resources
Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes those projects that are both ready
for authorization and vital to the water and environmental infrastructure
needs of communities across the Nation and which adopts other needed policy
and program reforms. The Administration is pleased that the rule for floor
debate recommended by the Rules Committee would remove from the bill
provisions related to California's Central Valley Project. Those
provisions would have caused the Secretary of the Interior and the
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to recommend a veto of
the bill for the reasons described in the Statement of Administration
Policy sent to the House Rules Committee on April 27th. Even if those
provisions are deleted, however, the Administration remains strongly
opposed to H.R. 1480 for the reasons described below.
The Administration is committed to increasing flood protection for the City
of Sacramento, California, and included provisions in its WRDA 98 proposal
to authorize substantial protection. We understand that the level of flood
protection provided in the substitute recommended by the Rules Committee is
lower than the level provided in the committee reported bill, is
significantly below the Administration's proposal, and therefore is highly
objectionable. We would strongly support efforts to increase the level of
flood protection for the City of Sacramento.
The Administration urges the House to limit the amount of new construction
spending authorized in H.R. 1480 by authorizing only those projects that
Federal budget constraints will allow the Corps to complete within a
reasonable time frame. With an existing construction backlog of more than
$27 billion of Army Corps of Engineers water projects, it would require
close to 20 years to complete all of the ongoing projects at current
funding levels. That estimate excludes all other congressionally
authorized projects not yet under construction, including over a hundred
from the 1996 WRDA. The Administration hopes to work with the Congress as
the legislation proceeds regarding how best to align the overall cost of
the authorizations with a reasonable expectation of future available
The Administration strongly objects to the many provisions in H.R. 1480
that would authorize projects before they complete an orderly Executive
Branch study and review process, which is designed to determine their
economic and technical feasibility, their environmental acceptability, and
the ability of local sponsors to provide the required local cost-share.
Each of the many authorizations in H.R. 1480 that bypasses this planning
and review process by relying solely upon a Chief of Engineers' report
weakens the review and approval responsibilities of the Secretary of the
Army and the Executive Branch. Those project authorizations that are
contingent upon a future Chief's report also seriously undermine the
ongoing study and review responsibilities of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Completion of the review process would not delay those projects that are
found to be justified because they could be authorized next year in a WRDA
2000. The Administration strongly objects to the many provisions in H.R.
1480 that would authorize projects before they have favorably completed a
full administrative review process.
In addition, some of the projects not ready for authorization also raise
serious policy concerns. For example, Savannah Harbor (GA) and other
projects have critical environmental issues, which should be resolved
The Administration also opposes the provisions of H.R. 1480 that would:
(1) authorize economically unjustified projects or those that fall outside
the missions of the Army Corps of Engineers; (2) grant unwarranted special
exemptions from cost-sharing or other requirements; or (3) authorize
projects and project modifications without studies or based upon outdated
planning reports. The Administration urges the House to reduce the costs
of H.R. 1480 substantially by deleting such provisions, along with the
project authorizations referenced above. For example, this Administration
opposes the Memphis Harbor land development project (TN), as have previous
Administrations, because it is an inappropriate activity for the Corps.
The Administration objects strongly to a proposed major increase in the
Federal cost-share of the construction of harbors deeper than 45 feet, and
of their operation and maintenance. The change would shift costs from
ports to the Federal Government, reducing the funding available for other
Army Corps of Engineers' water resources projects. The Administration
believes that any such authorization in this WRDA would be premature, at
best. There has been no demonstrated need for such cost-sharing relief.
Moreover, granting such relief would erode the important cost-sharing
reforms that Congress enacted in the 1986 and subsequent WRDAs. In
addition, this proposal could increase substantially the amount of dredged
spoil material requiring disposal, along with the associated costs and
environmental impacts. The impacts of any such a change require careful
analysis, which has not yet occurred.
"Challenge 21" Flood Hazard Mitigation and Riverine Ecosystem
The Administration strongly supports the Challenge 21 program, an
innovative program to restore watersheds while providing non-structural
flood protection for communities. This program, which would provide a new,
more effective framework for solving flooding problems, has been endorsed
by many community leaders and national groups, such as the Association of
State Floodplain Managers and the National Association of Flood and
Stormwater Management Agencies.
H.R. 1480 includes a Challenge 21 program, but at funding levels and with
program time limits that are insufficient to allow the Corps to work
effectively with communities to reduce flood damages. In this regard, we
strongly recommend that the House authorize the Challenge 21 program as
requested in our WRDA 98 legislative proposal.
H.R. 1480 would affect direct spending and receipts, therefore, it is
subject to the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) requirement of the Omnibus Budget
Reconciliation Act of 1990. OMB is currently developing its PAYGO