ARMY CORPS:

OMB cuts funding by 12% in draft 2011 budget

The Army Corps of Engineers would face a 12 percent funding cut next year under a draft budget request from the Obama administration.

According to the Office of Management and Budget "passback," shared with top Army Corps officials in early December and recently obtained by E&E, the White House will propose $4.81 billion for the agency in the fiscal 2011 budget.

That is $630 million less than the Army Corps received in this year's appropriations bill and $310 million less than the Obama administration requested for the agency last year.

"If that's what's in the budget proposal next Monday, we view it as a significant decrease in investment in water resources overall," said Marco Giamberardino of the Associated General Contractors of America. "To say that this is a disappointment is almost an understatement."

While the proposal may have undergone changes in recent weeks, it reveals areas of priority for the administration and signals a pullback in sponsoring new water resource projects.

The corps' investigations budget, which funds project studies, would garner $90 million in the request, down from $160 million in this year's spending bill. The White House would set aside $15 million of the line item for the Louisiana coastal area.

The construction budget also would be slashed in the proposal, winning $1.6 billion in the White House request compared with $2 billion from Congress this year.

The administration would fully fund all dam safety and Endangered Species Act projects and would allow any existing construction project to move forward if it meets a cost-benefit threshold of 1.0 and will be completed in 2011.

The White House proposes at least $154 million for Columbia River restoration projects, at least $45 million for the CALFED Bay-Delta program and $175 million for the Florida Everglades. The Everglades' Modified Water Deliveries Project would be funded separately in the National Park Service budget.

The administration would zero out the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project account, which funds flood damage reduction projects in the Mississippi River Valley. Money for the projects would be spread among the other accounts.

The move is "a big surprise," Giamberardino said.

"I can't imagine them doing that after what the Gulf Coast has been through the past couple of years," he said. "Even if the dollars were exactly the same, I think it would be viewed pretty negatively by that region. I think it's going to be viewed as looking away from the needs down there."

One area that would win additional funding in the proposal: operations and maintenance. The White House proposes $2.5 billion for the account, including $15 million to conduct an inventory of federal levees.

Ohio, Upper Mississippi and Illinois waterways would garner $285 million, climate change initiatives $15 million and the Coastal Data Information Program $3 million.

Other proposed numbers include:

  • $185 million for general expenses.
  • $41 million for flood control and coastal emergencies.
  • $130 million for the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program.

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