Statement by the President: Signing of the "Water Resources Development Act of 2000" (12/11/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                           December 11, 2000

                        STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

     Today I have signed into law S. 2796, the "Water Resources Development
Act of 2000," a multibillion dollar omnibus bill to authorize water
projects and programs of the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

     I am very pleased that this bill authorizes the Administration's plan
to restore an unprecedented natural resource -- America's Everglades.
Thanks to an historic partnership among Federal, State, tribal, and local
leaders, we can begin in earnest an over 30-year journey to complete the
largest and most ambitious ecosystem restoration project in the world.

     Since the beginning of our first term, the Vice President and I have
made Everglades restoration a priority.  We have provided the necessary
resources to Federal agencies and made timely completion of the
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan an essential part of our
environmental agenda.  Through the leadership of the Army Corps of
Engineers and the support of the Environmental Protection Agency, the
Department of the Interior, and other Federal agencies, the State of
Florida, and a diverse group of stakeholders, the authorized plan provides
a scientifically sound blueprint to guide Everglades restoration.  The
legislation provides assurances that water developed under the Plan will be
available for the restoration of the natural systems.  We must all now make
implementation of this Plan a priority if we are to save this threatened
resource and leave an Everglades legacy that will make future generations
proud of their Government.  By acting now, we can reverse the damage of the
past and rescue this unique and remarkable landscape.

     I am pleased that S. 2796 also authorizes a major project to deepen
channels into New York/New Jersey harbor, our Nation's third largest
container port, that will benefit consumers and producers, create jobs, and
make the United States more
competitive in world markets.  The Act also authorizes my
proposal for projects to improve the Puget Sound ecosystem and
authorizes efforts to restore the estuary of the lower Columbia River,
boosting the recovery of threatened and endangered salmon species in the
Pacific Northwest.

     In addition, I am pleased that the Congress has adopted my proposals
to strengthen the authority of the Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate
comprehensively the water resources needs of watersheds throughout the
Nation and to enhance its ability to work with Native American tribes and
Alaska native communities to study proposed water resources projects.  I
also endorse the authori-za-tion for a National Academy of Sciences study
on suggestions for an independent review of Army Corps of Engineers

     I am very concerned and disappointed, however, with many of the
provisions in S. 2796. Earlier this year, I submitted water resource
legislation to the Congress directed at certain fundamental issues.  First,
the bill included several high-priority Corps initiatives addressing
important needs currently facing the Nation.  Second, the bill proposed a
number of much
needed water project reforms.  Finally, my Administration developed this
bill with a Federal cost of about $1 billion within a framework of overall
fiscal discipline that helps ensure that only the most worthwhile projects
are funded.

     The version of this legislation as passed authorizes roughly $5
billion in new Federal spending according to Corps of Engineers estimates,
an amount that far exceeds a reasonable assessment of the available future
Federal budgetary resources for this program.  The vast majority of the new
projects and modifications to existing projects in this bill have not
completed the study phase or are under review and simply are not ready for
authorization at this time.  Until these
proposals have completed the appropriate prior planning and review,
including the review required for water resources
project proposals under Executive Order 12322, neither the
executive branch nor the Congress knows which of them will raise
significant concerns regarding scope, feasibility,
environmental acceptability, cost-sharing, or other issues.  I strongly
recommend that the Congress await completion of this process before
reaching a decision on authorizing future projects and project
modifications.  Particularly in view of the Congress' directive to study
benefits of an independent review of Corps of Engineers water projects, we
need to find ways to strengthen the project planning and review process.  I
am pleased, however, that the Congress decided to drop proposed
authorizations totaling more than $550 million for local infrastructure
projects that should not become a responsibility of the Army Corps of

     Furthermore, my Administration proposed improvements to the procedures
used for deauthorizing dormant projects, changes to close a loophole in the
existing ability-to-pay law, an increase in the local cost-share for
structural flood damage reduction projects, and a program to clean up
brownfields.  I am disappointed that the Congress did not authorize any of
these important reforms.

     Finally, section 601(b)(2)(D)(iii) provides that appropriations for
certain water resources projects within the Everglades shall not be made
unless technical reports on those projects have been approved by the House
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on
Environment and Public Works.  This provision is a direction to the
Congress regarding how the Congress will exercise its authority to
appropriate funds.  The provision does not limit the authority of agencies
to spend funds that the Congress has appropriated.

     Notwithstanding our concerns, the Water Resources Development Act of
2000 authorizes the Army to undertake much needed and important projects
for improvements to the Nation?s ports and harbors, and the restoration of
our aquatic resources, including America?s Everglades, and deserves
enactment into law.

                              WILLIAM J. CLINTON

    December 11, 2000.

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