Flake Seeks to Support Ban on Earmarks, Eliminate Wasteful Spending in Water...

Flake Seeks to Support Ban on Earmarks, Eliminate Wasteful Spending in Water Infrastructure Bill

Washington, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) today filed seven amendments to the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that are supportive of the congressional moratorium on earmarks, eliminate wasteful spending, and increase transparency.

“This single piece of legislation will impact the nation’s harbors, waterways, shorelines, infrastructure, and – of course – budget for years to come,” said Flake. “With limited resources, it is important to make sure that these development projects are worth constructing and that priority is being places on the most urgent ones.”

Summaries of Flake’s amendments can be viewed below:

  • SA #5016 New Construction Authorization – Supports the congressional moratorium on earmarks by improving a process for the authorization of new construction projects. Under the amendment, the Secretary of the Army would submit to Congress a biennial report recommending the authorization of construction for no more than nine new water resource projects that meet a set criteria on cost, classification, and feasibility. Only projects that meet the set criteria can be authorized by Congress.Flake also introduced this amendment during the consideration of the 2014 WRDA.
  • SA #5014 Low Priorities Reduction Amendment – Reduces the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) authorization to president’s Budget level for Low Priority Studies and Construction by capping authorization for projects at $1.175 billion. This would save $808 million in authorization.
  • SA #5018 Eliminating Beach Nourishment – Eliminates USACE and Environmental Protection Agency beach nourishment projects – which are costly and destroy beach habitats – while funding more effective shore protection methods. The amendment would still allow beach nourishment in areas with high flood risks.
  • SA #5015 New Construction Authorization Reporting – Changes Section 7001 to include a reporting requirement on authorized projects. Included in the reporting requirements would be: has the project had a completed feasibility study or major decision document following the passage of WRDA; and is the project subject of a completed report of the chief of engineers containing a determination that the relevant project is: in the federal interest; results in benefits to cost ratio of 2:1, excluding projects classified as environmental restoration; is environmentally acceptable; and is technically feasible. Also to be listed is whether the Secretary included any of the following: more than 2 new construction projects in any 1 division of the Army Corps of Engineers; any project that is the result of 2 or more combined construction projects; any project that is the subject of a completed feasibility study or major decision document completed more than 10 years prior to the submission of the report.
  • SA #5012 No Report, No Funding – Requires the USACE to submit their final deauthorization report at the beginning of every fiscal year. If the report is not on time, non-essential travel will be grounded until the report is submitted.
  • SA #5017 Environmental Infrastructure Deauthorization –  Expands project deauthorization process to include wasteful environmental infrastructure projects. These sometimes wasteful pet projects were exempted from deauthorization reforms in the 2014 WRDA bill.
  • SA #5013 Harbor Deepening Cost Share Maintenance – Strikes Section 2011 on harbor deepening cost-sharing that will increase the cost-share for the federal taxpayer on harbor deepening construction projects. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Section 2011 will retroactively cost taxpayers an additional $430 million more than was initially authorized.

Background:

  • In April, Flake introduced an amendment to a Senate appropriations bill that would eliminate $69 million in unrequested funding for the USACE to build parochial environmental infrastructure projects.
  • In June 2015, Flake highlighted the need to eliminate USACE funding for these projects in his oversight report, Jurassic Pork. That report, which detailed continued cost of earmarked projects, was released in response to a call from members of Congress to abandon the congressional ban on earmarks.
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