Matilija Dam & the WRDA bill
- While folks in Ventura County are happy to see the Matilija Dam
project move forward in Washington, many are critical of the Water
bill that is likely to be vetoed by the president... here's why
article from yesterday's Wall Street Journal on WRDA.
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
October 8, 2007; Page A18
Everyone in Congress has promised to discipline his spending and
earmarking habits. Funny that Members are proving just how
watered-down those promises are in a water projects bill headed to
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a core mission: commercial
navigation, flood and storm control, restoring some aquatic
ecosystems. When Congress got around to authorizing the $4.9 billion
in such civil
works that the Corps identified, here is what happened: The Senate
passed a bill that cost roughly $14 billion, and the House a
different bill at $15 billion. Then they got together in conference
and compromised -- at $23.2 billion.
Congress's core mission was apparently not only to leave no
pork-barrel project on the cutting-room floor, but to destroy the
idea of a cutting room. Just about every Member gets his earmark(s).
Thus the Water
Resources Development Act contains more than 900 special-interest
* At least $1.8 billion to build seven unnecessary navigation locks
on the Upper Mississippi River, a project embroiled for years by
corruption and budget overruns.
* Billions for cross-country "environmental infrastructure," which
usually means building a marina or waterfront shopping center.
* $105 million to Louisiana's Port of Iberia, which the Corps
estimated to generate 30 cents for every $1 spent before Senator Mary
Landrieu demanded a highly dubious recount.
* A multimillion-dollar subsidyfest for wastewater treatment
facilities, sewer projects, mine reclamation, beach maintenance and
surface transport, none of which fall under the Corps' jurisdiction.
Even all that wasn't enough. The conference committee "airdropped" 19
earmarks that were not in the original House or Senate bills. Their
appearance added $750 million to the tab, with $685 million of the new
pork going to the Santa Ana River Mainstem (total cost: $1.8 billion
and counting) in Southern California. The last-minute request was
made by California Senator Barbara Boxer, who as chairman of the Environmental
and Public Works Committee was responsible for crafting the
legislation in the first place.
This airdropping clearly violates the transparency provisions of the
Democrats' recent ethics "reform." Majority Leader Harry Reid,
however, ruled that an "and/or" clause meant that the rules applied
only to appropriations, not "authorizations," so Ms. Boxer got her wish.
All Corps of Engineers authorizations are tossed into the same tub.
The Corps has a $38 billion project backlog, so those backed by the
most politically powerful Members bob to the top. Congress twice rejected
amendments to prioritize the most urgent works.
Mr. Bush will probably veto this monstrosity, but there's little
doubt he'll be overridden. Most Republicans seem content to go along;
the conference report moved out of the House 381-40 and the Senate 81-12.
They're selling out twice. Democrats included GOP pork to ensure an
override, weakening the Administration for the fall budget fights.
As for Democrats, they rode into the majority promising a less
corrupt Congress. Already they're poised to blow right past the
Republicans' pre-2006 spending abuses. When the Democrats campaign in
2008 as the
party of "fiscal discipline," taxpayers ought to pelt them with water balloons.
Surfrider Foundation Ventura County Chapter
Coordinator, Matilija Coalition
(805) 648-4005 pjenkin@...
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