House Attempts Reforms to Water Bill, but May Fall Short of Necessary Change

The House water resources bill may not be on the front page, but it is a big deal here in Washington – and it is a big deal for taxpayers, too.  The Heritage Foundation’s Emily Goff explains that the bill’s shortcomings could overshadow its reforms.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2013 (H.R. 3080), this year’s version of the Water Resource and Development Act (WRDA), contains some provisions to eliminate bureaucratic red tape, reduce the project backlog of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and increase the role of local or private entities in authorized projects.

Unfortunately, the bill fails in numerous other areas and questions remain where it does attempt reforms.

For example, H.R. 3080 requires congressional authorization of project studies and construction instead of ceding this authority to the Corps. Good! But the Corps, which is known for its pro-construction bias, will be likely to propose unnecessary projects for study and funding, and lawmakers have proven themselves eager to approve of such projects in the past, especially when non-federal entities in their districts push for construction projects to receive authorization. Not good!

The list of reforms the outcomes of which are unclear goes on.

Heritage points out a number of reforms that should have been made but were not.  For example, H.R. 3080 does not limit the Corps areas of responsibility or require the Corps to prioritize well enough.  This is a significant problem, especially considering the amount of taxpayer dollars the Corps has wasted:

Despite the Corps’s Civil Works Program having a $6.9 billion average annual budget between 2000 and 2013, its project backlog has grown from 800 projects totaling $46 billion to over 1,000 projects totaling over $60 billion. Further, the Corps received $25.5 billion in supplemental funding alone between 2003 and 2012.

Moving forward, the House should seriously consider the many reforms Heritage suggests, for the sake of American taxpayers who are already burdened with the incredible debt racked up by the federal government’s largesse with itself.

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