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Senators will use all tools against water bill

A group of U.S. senators has signed a letter expressing opposition to newly proposed water resources development legislation that would “make a costly, lengthy and bureaucratic process even more costly, more lengthy and more bureaucratic.”

The letter stopped short of threatening a filibuster, but the authors, senators from states that participate in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects for water navigation and flood control, said they would “use all the tools of the Senate” to prevent such legislation from becoming law.

Written to the chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Environment and Public Works, the letter was signed by Sens. Kit Bond and Jean Carnahan of Missouri, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott of Mississippi, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and John W. Warner of Virginia.

“As citizens who live in states that rely on Corps projects understand firsthand, the existing process is extremely cumbersome,” the letter said. “Multi-agency review, analysis and consultation takes not days or months but years and in some cases, decades.”

The authors said the current approval process provides extensive and repeated opportunities for review and extended public comment and increasingly difficult environmental and local cost-share requirements.

The new legislation, introduced ostensibly for the “modernization and improvement” of programs administered by the Corps of Engineers will make an already cumbersome process “more costly, more lengthy and more bureaucratic.”

“Our constituents cannot tolerate this event,” they said. “As the subcommittee and committee begin to formulate a Water Resources Development Act, we alert you that we will object to any water resources bill that includes provisions that make it more difficult for our citizens, particularly poor citizens, to get flood control, navigation, recreation and environmental projects approved.”

The letter said that increasing cost and local cost-share requirements “typically mean that the federal government may help provide flood protection to wealthy communities but will rarely, if ever, protect poor communities no matter the personal risk and economic hardship they face.

“After all these hurdles are met, there must be specific congressional authorization and multi-year appropriations and oversight. The effect of this so-called ‘reform’ legislation would be to make an excruciatingly difficult process more difficult.”

The senators noted that Section 216 of Public Law 106-541 requires the National Academy of Sciences to make recommendations regarding independent peer review of feasibility reports and a review of methods of project analysis. “Prior to recommendations from the administration and completion of the NAS recommendations, it would be premature to legislate prescriptive mandates,” the letter said.

“We understand that many members of the Senate desire projects in the Water Resources Development Act, but the cost of raising the bar for the most needy in our regions compels us to use all the tools of the Senate to prevent it from becoming law.”


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