Judging from figures in spending bills making their way through Congress, the Army Corps of Engineers civil-works program is in line for a modest fiscal year 2017 funding increase that will nudge the total to a new high.
At ENR press time, the Senate was nearing approval of an appropriations measure that would provide $6 billion for Corps civil works, up $11 million from the level in the 2016 omnibus spending package. The omnibus had a record sum for civil works, excluding emergency funds. The House Appropriations Committee has gone even higher, approving a measure on April 19 that has $6.09 billion for the program, which includes flood control, environmental, dredging and lock and dam projects. That bill is awaiting floor action.
Amy Larson, National Waterways Conference president, said in an email that she is “really pleased by the numbers.” She added, “I was hoping the [Appropriations] Committees would at least match the omnibus, so the plus-up is great news.”
Within the Senate bill’s $6 billion, appropriators included $1.81 billion for the Corps construction account, a 3% cut from 2016. But they boosted operation and maintenance 1%, to about $3.17 billion. The House committee measure exceeds the Senate’s on construction, providing $1.95 billion, but recommends $3.16 for O&M. That’s slightly less than the Senate number but up $20 million from 2016.
Industry officials were disappointed, but environmentalists were pleased that the Senate on April 21 rejected an amendment from Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to bar 2017 funds to implement a Corps-Environmental Protection Agency regulation defining which bodies of water are subject to federal regulation. But the House Committee’s bill has language to block the rule.
It may be months before final Corps spending figures are set. The Capitol Hill calendar is shortened this year because of political conventions and election campaigning. If Congress can’t finish the energy-water and other appropriations bills by the Oct. 1 start of fiscal 2017, it will have to adopt a stopgap continuing resolution.