Senate appropriators had good news for firms that work on Corps of Engineers projects, recommending increased funding in fiscal 2006 for the Corps construction account and its overall civil works budget.

The 2006 energy and water programs spending bill that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved on June 16 provides $5.3 billion for the Corps civil works program, up 5% from this year's level. Within that total, the panel allotted $2.1 billion for the construction general account, a 13% jump over 2005's mark.

If the numbers remain the same after Senate floor action, the measure would be reconciled with the version that the House approved May 24, which includes $4.7 billion for Corps civil works and $1.9 billion for the construction account. Even the House's $1.9-billion figure would be an increase over 2005's $1.8 billion.

American Association of Port Authorities President and CEO Kurt Nagle called the Senate panel's civil works recommendation "a very positive signal that navigation projects at our nation's seaports will get more of the funds they critically need to start, complete and/or maintain waterways that are crucial to our nation's economy." Nagle noted that the Bush administration had recommended $4.5 billion for civil works in its 2006 budget proposal.

Big items in the Senate committee's 2006 construction allocation include: $90 million to continue dredging the New York harbor; $85 million for fish mitigation on the Columbia River in Washington, Oregon and Idaho; $85 million for Olmsted Locks and Dam on the Ohio River in Illinois and Kentucky; $74 million for the Marmet Lock on the Kanawha River in West Virginia; $60 million for fish and wildlife recovery along the Missouri River; and $46 million for Locks and Dams 2, 3 and 4 on Pennsylvania's Monongahela River.

In another encouraging development for the Corps and its contractors, the House water resources and environment subcommittee on June 16 approved a water resources authorization measure that includes an estimated $10 billion in Corps projects. That action advances a long-delayed Water Resources Development Act. The last WRDA was enacted in December 2000. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved its 2005 WRDA version on April 13.