ARMY CORPS:

White House proposes 10% funding cut

The Obama administration today proposed slashing funding for the Army Corps of Engineers by 10 percent next year, recommending a broad swath of cuts from studying new projects to maintaining existing ones.

Under the fiscal 2011 budget request, the Army Corps would receive $4.9 billion, down from the $5.4 billion appropriated this year.

The administration highlights flood risk management, aquatic ecosystem restoration, commercial navigation and hydropower as areas of priority next year. The budget also gives priority to dam safety projects and projects that will complete construction during 2011.

The budget request cuts the investigations account, which funds project studies, to $104 million from the $162 awarded in fiscal 2010.

The construction budget also is slashed in the proposal, winning $1.7 billion in the White House request compared with $2 billion from Congress this year.

The operations and maintenance account would see a slight cut of $39 million, dropping to $2.4 billion for the year.

The Mississippi River and Tributaries Project account, which finds flood damage reduction projects in the Mississippi River Valley, would see its budget cut from $340 million this year to $240 million in fiscal 2011.

The administration is requesting $30 million in new funding for flood control and coastal emergencies and seeks a $3 million increase for the corps' regulatory program, requesting $193 million for the line item next year.

Marco Giamberardino, of the Associated General Contractors of America, said the cuts will mean less funding for "a lot of critical projects" that already have been authorized by Congress and have completed the environmental review process.

"That's a half a billion dollars of projects of critical infrastructure needs that are not going to be funded," Giamberardino said. "So it's obviously a concern from a public safely standpoint, and from a commerce standpoint."

But David Conrad, senior water resources specialist for the National Wildlife Federation, noted the cuts come after periods of significant increases in the corps' budget, including $4.6 billion awarded to the agency last year in the stimulus bill and additional billions in supplemental appropriations for New Orleans flood protections in recent years.

"In many ways the corps' budget was almost doubled for at least those two years," Conrad said. "There are certainly a lot of areas that need funding. But on the other hand the corps has received a lot of money, some of which is not yet expended."