Washington, DC - The President's Budget for Fiscal Year 2004 unveiled yesterday contains a number of changes urged by environmental and taxpayer groups seeking reform of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Overall, the Corps budget for dredging rivers, rebuilding beaches and constructing locks and dams would shrink significantly from FY 2003 levels. Similarly, the budget would limit the ability of the Corps to start new projects by forcing it to concentrate on reducing its backlog of previously authorized projects and to abandon questionable projects altogether.
This change in overall direction of Corps operations includes "independent review" of Corps project and -
A big caution flag on the controversial plan to spend $1.5 billion to expand the lock system on the entire Upper Mississippi River system. OMB calls the project "troubled, " criticizes the direction of its current "restructured" study and denies any funds to begin preliminary engineering work;
Full funding for environmental restoration and management projects on both the Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers. The budget also lists the huge Everglades restoration as one of eight national priority projects; and
Greater emphasis on making users pay for improvements by tapping the barge company funded Inland Waterway Trust Fund to pay for operations and maintenance needs of existing navigation facilities.
In lieu of new construction, OMB recommends that the Corps should address congestion and improve efficiency at existing navigation facilities through non-structural means such as better scheduling, lockage fees and other "demand-management" techniques.
"We do not always agree with Mitch Daniels but OMB's work on the Corps budget deserves praise," commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "The pressure to conserve one type of green - dollars - may be paying off in greener policies and priorities."