Water Resources Development Act of 2013 lacks Fiscal Responsibility

May 18, 2013


Friday, May 17, 2013

Water Resources Development Act of 2013 lacks Fiscal Responsibility

Th-8By Nancy Thorner – 

With news and politics focusing on a trio of questionable and even scandalous actions by the Obama administration, it is difficult to get word out to the public about other matters of importance that are coming down the pike for consideration by our legislators and which demand accountability by concerned citizens.

The full Senate is currently considering legislation to reauthorize WRDA (an array of water resource projects, most of which are run by the Army Corps of Engineers). The complete document can be read HERE. 

Who could object to a bill which would authorize federal spending on an array of water resource projects such as ports, harbors, inland waterways, beaches, and wetlands?

Might cost be up for consideration?  The CBO estimates that implementing S 601 would be very costly at $12.2 billion over a time frame of  2014 to 2024.

Although there is some good in every bill —  S 601 does contain small positive reforms such as increasing non-federal control and management of projects and environmental review streamlining — it lacks fiscal responsibility.

The Heritage Foundation published an Issue Brief on May 6 which cites seven costly sins of S 601:

1.  Authorizes Billions in Spending.  With a price tag of $12.2 billion over the fiscal year 2013-2012 period, and given the debt level of this nation, it would be more appropriate to have many of the activities funded and managed by states, localities or the private sector than in spending tax dollars

2.  Funds State and Local Activities.  Local or private-sector activities should not be included in the corp’s mission. Because lawmakers are discouraged from setting rigorous cost-benefit analyses as requirements for funding projects — often pet projects are involved — controlling costs does not rate high with legislators.  If the private sector or local citizens were paying for the project in full they would be incentivized to make wise investment and construction decisions to control costs.

3.  Worsens the Corp’s Project Backlog.  The bill not only opens the door for potential “Administration earmarks,” but it could worsen the Army Corp’s current $60 billion backlog of 1,000 studies and projects. Lawmakers should cancel funding for those projects that are unwarranted before adding new projects to the mix.

4.  Prevents Budget Cuts.  The bill prevents Congress from considering any bill that lowers the funding level for the Civil Works Program from what was spent the year before, thereby letting Congress off the hook from having to live within its means.

5.  Misses the Mark on Environmental Reforms.  Legislators should narrow the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process and remove the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions as a requirement, with the ultimate goal of rescinding NEPA.

6.  Mandates Studies, misses reforms.  The bill mandates conducting studies such as levee vegetation, the history of hurricanes, and flood and drought management, which can distract from enacting real reform.

7.  Stops Short on Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Reform.  The trust fund is currently running a surplus (consists of fees levied on cargo that passes through the nation’s ports and waterways).  Either the fees should be reduced or the reserve funds should be set aside for future needs, not used to pad spending elsewhere.

All in all the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 would authorize high levels of spending, fail to address underlying problems, and continue using federal tax dollars to pay for state and local project responsibilities.
It is not too soon to urge Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin to vote no on the legislation.

Friday, May 17, 2013 at 07:57 AM | Permalink




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