While less expensive and problematic than the Senate version of the Water Resources Development Act (S. 2848), we urge you to oppose H.R. 5303, the “Water Resources Development Act of 2016.” Instead of much needed reform, this legislation piles billions of dollars in additional water projects on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plate. The legislation also makes policy changes that will be costly to taxpayers.
The largest challenge facing the Corps of Engineers water resources program is the lack of a prioritization system for allocating the limited available tax dollars. The legislation directs the executive branch to better explain its budgeting decisions, but this should not serve as an abdication of congressional authority. Congress should develop the criteria and metrics to prioritize Corps projects in the three primary mission areas (navigation, flood/storm damage reduction, and environmental restoration). The executive branch should be required to allocate funds in the budget request in a transparent manner through merit, competitive, or formula systems developed by Congress. Lawmakers could then conduct oversight, hold the administration accountable, and adjust the systems, criteria, and metrics as needed.
H.R. 5303 fails to include such a prioritization system. It does many other things, however. Between committee consideration and the floor, the bill grew by over $6 billion. A provision from the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 dedicating maintenance dredging funds to emerging ports is made permanent. It doesn’t make sense to invest in a port that is continually “emerging.” It also extends set-asides for “donor” and “energy” ports without reforming the massive cross-subsidies in the existing maintenance dredging program. The legislation authorizes funding for a project in Fort Worth, Texas, costing more than $800 million. The Upper Trinity River project is portrayed as a flood damage reduction effort, but is really a massive economic development initiative that would divert precious Corps resources to construct soccer and baseball fields, basketball courts, and even a splash park. Money spent on a splash park in Fort Worth is money that cannot be spent to further the Corps’ core mission areas. At the least, we urge you to remove or limit the funds for this project.
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Natonal Taxpayers Union