Washington Update

National Waterways Conference release
18 December 2014

FY15 Appropriations

The President has signed into law the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, funding most federal agencies through the fiscal year, with a continuing resolution funding the Department of Homeland Security through February 27th.   

The Corps of Engineers’ civil works program is funded at $5.5 billion, ($13M less than FY14 but 20% or $922M more than requested) as follows:
General Investigations: $122 million
Construction General: $1.639 billion
Operations & Maintenance (O&M): $2.908 billion, including $1.1B from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund
Mississippi River & Tributaries: $302 million  
Regulatory: $200 million
Office of the ASA(CW): $3 million

The Congress again added additional funding pots, in lieu of earmarks, as follows:  

O&M: Deep Draft 165M; Inland 42M; Small ports 42.5M; Nav Maintenance 45M; Other 35M
Investigations: Navigation 5M; Deep Draft/coastal 4.1M; Inland 4M; Small ports 2.2M
Construction: Navigation Construction 95M; IWTF projects 112M

The Corps has 60 days to submit work plans, and is required to provide a detailed description of the ratings used to evaluate projects in each account, how the funds were allocated, a summary for each allocation, and a list of projects considered and the reasons they did not receive funds. (The explanatory statement also provides that projects may not be excluded on the basis of being “inconsistent with Administration policy.”)

Other highlights:

The bill includes a provision, applicable government-wide, prohibiting the use of funds to implement a new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard until the Administration has solicited and considered input from Governors, mayors and other stakeholders. 

The explanatory statement accompanying the bill again includes an expression of concern over the ongoing effort to revise the Principles and Guidelines, and directs the Corps to continue to use the 1983 version.  (additional information below)

Regarding lock and dam levels of service, the Corps is directed to undertake an economic analysis of whether this reduced service is in the best economic interests of the nation.  
A directive to the Corps and EPA to withdraw its interpretive rule regarding applicability of the Clean Water Act section 404(f)(1)(A).  The bill does not address the pending Waters of the US rulemaking.

With respect the WRRDA, the explanatory statement notes that most of the funding decisions for FY15 were made in the absence of WRRDA and that it is anticipated that WRRDA provisions will be more fully integrated into the FY16 budget.

In support of the significant cut from $5 million to $3 million for the Office of the ASA (Civil Works), the explanatory statement expresses significant concern with “a breakdown in the traditional roles and responsibilities of the White House, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) and the Corps headquarters,” and stresses that “the Administration needs to return its focus to executing the Civil Works program and not to addressing multiple conflicting agendas with program execution as an afterthought.”

In the section funding OMB, OMB is prohibited from using funds to evaluate USACE projects or reports to determine if they are in compliance with all laws, regulations and requirements.  OMB is required to perform all policy reviews within 60 days and notify committees when review is initiated, and that if the appropriate committees are not provided the required reports within 15 days of the due date, the Congress will assume that OMB concurs with the report.

CEQ Releases Final Interagency Guidelines

The Administration has released the final Principles, Requirements and Guidelines (PR&G) for Federal investments in water resources.  The final Principles and Requirements were released in March of 2013, and the final Interagency Guidelines were released yesterday.  Together, they are intended to establish the framework for how the Federal government analyzes investments that impact water resources in light of economic, environmental and social impacts. The PR&G direct agencies to develop their Agency Specific Procedures.

Under a rider in the omnibus, the Corps is directed to continue to use the 1983 Principles and Guidelines and submit a report to Congress.  The appropriations languages states:

 “Concerns persist that the effort to update the Water Resources Principles and Guidelines is not proceeding consistent with the language or intent of section 2031 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. No funds provided to the Corps of Engineers shall be used to develop or implement rules or guidance to support implementation of the final Principles and Requirements for Federal Investments in Water Resources released in March 2013. The Corps shall continue to use the document dated March 10, 1983, and entitled "Economic and Environmental Principles and Guidelines for Water and Related Land Resources Implementation Studies" during the fiscal year period covered by the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act for 2015. If Interagency Guidelines for implementing the March 2013 Principles and Requirements are finalized, the Corps shall be ready to report to the appropriate committees of Congress not later than 120 days after finalization on the impacts of the revised Principles and Requirements and Interagency Guidelines. The Corps shall be prepared to explain the intent of each revision, how each revision is or is not consistent with section 2031 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, and the probable impact of each revision on water resources projects carried out by the Secretary including specific examples of application to at least one project from each main mission area of the Corps.”

Based upon a brief review of the document released yesterday, multiple concerns remain that the PR&G does not establish a balanced, consistent and effective approach to the development of the nation’s water resources.  Further analysis will be provided. The Interagency Guidelines can be viewed here:

Barge Diesel Fuel Tax Increased

The Senate passed tax extension legislation that included a provision to increase the diesel fuel tax that funds major rehabilitation and construction projects on the inland waterways.  Widely supported by industry, the legislation increases from 20 cents per gallon to 29 cents the tax paid into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, effective April 1, 2015.

The measure is now headed to the President for his signature.        

2015 Legislative Summit

Save the date: March 16-18.  Registration details coming after the New Year.

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