A divided House Appropriations Committee advanced a FY024 spending bill that provides $9.57 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That’s $910 million above the enacted level for the current year. By a vote of 34 to 24, the committee sent the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies bill to the full House, which is set to reconvene July 11.
Ten committee votes may sound like a comfortable margin, but those divisions are still disquieting, with some Republicans wanting to limit new Corps spending to FY2022 levels.
Key provisions listed by the panel include $2.771 billion for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, $456 million for construction projects on the inland waterways system, fully funding ongoing work for fiscal year 2024, and up to $1.54 billion for flood and storm damage reduction activities.
Waterways Council President and CEO Tracy Zea thanked members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Energy & Water Development Subcommittee for increasing funding from zero in the president’s budget request for construction of inland waterways priority projects to $456 million, saying, “This will continue critical modernization on the nation’s inland waterways, a vital part of our transportation supply chain.”
When it comes to waterways infrastructure investment, we are just beginning to make up for decades of underinvestment and neglect. True, we have gotten some good boosts in the last couple of years from various stimulus bills. The completion of Olmsted Lock and Dam was a big win.
But investment in other areas, like the long-neglected Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program, has still lagged. Inflation has eroded the amounts appropriated for many Corps projects, to the point that they are no longer funded to completion. The Kentucky Lock and Chickamauga Lock completion dates have receded, after seeming tantalizingly close.
The overall needs remain big and ongoing.
This is no time for Congress to take its foot off the gas pedal.