While debating the once considered non-controversial FY17 Energy & Water Development (E&WD) Appropriations bill on the Senate floor on April 27, an amendment by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) to restrict U.S. purchases of “heavy water” used in producing nuclear energy from Iran irked Democrats, and put the bill on hold. Arguing that it violated an agreement to avoid “politically charged” amendments on spending measures, Democrats blocked multiple cloture votes to end debate on the bill. Eventually the Cotton amendment was voted down and the bill passed on May 12.
The Senate’s FY 2017 E&WD bill provides Corps funding for its Civil Works Program at $6 billion, an increase of $11 million above the FY16 enacted level, and $1.380 billion above the President’s budget request. The Senate bill more than restores the 23% cut to the Corps’ budget proposed by the Administration for FY17.
The Construction account receives $1.81 billion or $723.65 million more than the FY17 President’s request. With Olmsted funded at $225 million as requested by the President, a total of $375.65 million will be made available for capital investment to modernize the Nation’s inland waterways transportation system. Additional full-use funding will be allocated by the Secretary of the Army, taking into account the priorities established by WRRDA 2014.
The Operations and Maintenance (O&M) account receives a record $3.17 billion, $468.83 million above the Administration’s request for FY17. The FY 2016 O&M funding level was $3.14 billion, the then-highest ever appropriated for this account in an annual appropriation bill, or $36.83 million more in FY17 than appropriated in FY16.
The Investigations account receives $126.5 million, or $41.5 million above the FY17 request. The Secretary of the Army will allocate these funds, with WCI requesting $10 million be dedicated to Pre-Construction Engineering and Design (PED) of the Navigation Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP).
The bill surpasses the WRRDA 2014 target for Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund appropriations at $1.3 billion.
A bump of $700 million above the President’s budget request was provided for construction of flood storm damage risk reduction, shore protection, aquatic ecosystem restoration, and related Corps mission projects authorized by law. Mississippi River & Tributaries (MR&T) received $368 million for flood damage reduction.
The President’s senior advisors have recommended a veto of the bill based on Department of Energy riders included in the bill.
Source: Waterways Council, Inc.