WJ Editorial
WJ Editorial

Corps’ Civil Works Budget Is Still A Work In Progress 

President Joe Biden’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget request, released March 29, requests $6.6 billion for the Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program. 

This year’s budget request highlights include:

• About $39.3 million for Chickamauga Lock and Dam. That amount would fund the project to completion and would also honor the 65/35 split in the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, with the feds providing 65 percent, and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund supplying $13.75 million.

• The operations and maintenance account would get $4.32 billion, a 6 percent decrease from FY22 request of $4.60 billion. 

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• The investigations account would get $106 million, the same amount that was provided in the FY22 President’s Budget.

• The construction account would receive $1.28 billion, a decrease of 28.49 percent from the FY22 request of $1.79 billion.

After the budget request release, the White House announced the release of $2.7 billion in IIJA funds for 300 Corps projects. Included were two projects of special interest to the inland waterway community.

The White House said it will invest an additional $77 million in Emsworth Locks and Dams, expanding its capacity to allow large tows to reliably and efficiently pass through the Upper Ohio River system, relieving landside congestion and facilitating timely delivery of goods.

The Biden administration is also investing $92.6 million in the McClellan–Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which moves 12 million tons of agricultural commodities annually to American farmers and provides flood control to many communities in Arkansas and Oklahoma along the Mississippi River. The investment “will upgrade the locks along the system to ensure that commodities are being delivered quickly and efficiently.”

The White House’s $6.6 billion request is a decrease from FY22’s budget request of $6.8 billion, but Congress ultimately makes the budget and appropriations decisions. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has expressed dismay at the cuts in Biden’s proposed Corps budget, noting that the bipartisan infrastructure bill was supposed to address backlogs in infrastructure support, not take the place of the regular budget process. She singled out the $1 billion cut to the Corps’ construction account as especially disappointing. As chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Feinstein will no doubt have her say in the ultimate spending level. 

It remains to be seen whether and by how much Congress will “plus up” the president’s budget request. Last year, the White House’s FY22 request was $6.79 billion for total Corps civil works funding, but Congress appropriated $8.3 billion.

Yes, last year was a year of record appropriations, but it followed many years of under-investment. We hope that Congress will step in and help maintain the construction momentum.