Federal funds for dredging under review

By: Geoffrey Stoute
MORGAN CITY — Work on funding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 2012 budget, including funding for maintenance dredging in waterways in the Morgan City Harbor and Terminal District, is under way.

Port of Morgan City consultant Martin Cancienne of The Livingston Group in Washington, D.C., told com-missioners that about $2.37 billion was being discussed for the entire Corps’ dredging projects across the country. The figure is just more than the $2.365 billion approved for the fiscal year 2011 budget.

Of that amount, the Port of Morgan City is to receive about $7.01 million as of now, Cancienne said. That’s down from the $7.153 million that was requested for 2012. However, Cancienne said all operations and maintenance accounts have been cut for the upcoming fiscal year.

Legislation on a bill, including that operations and maintenance funding, was to take place today, and Cancienne said he was hopeful it would reach the house floor for full debate before Congress’ August recess.

The funding is part of the House Energy and Water Appropriation subcommittee’s proposed budget, which has been cut by $1 billion below 2011 numbers and $6 billion below what President Barack Obama requested in his budget. For 2012, $30.6 billion has been budgeted.

The bill was approved by the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee on June 2, and now will be debated by the full committee.

Of the $30.6 billion, $4.8 billion has been allocated for the Army Corps of Engineers. That’s $89 million below last year’s level, but $195 million above the budget request.

However, in the request, some programs — like infra-structure projects under the Corps’ jurisdiction — would see a slight boost of nearly $200 million over the White House request.

There are no congressionally earmarked projects within the bill, but this bill has made available $380 million to provide the Corps with additional flexibility.

The legislation also includes more than $1.75 billion for navigation projects and studies.

The bill does not fund all of the presidential requested projects for the Corps, redirecting $59 million to navigation and flood control activities that will have a more immediate impact. Due to the large number of ongoing projects, the bill provides a limited amount of discretionary funding to continue essential flood control and navigation projects to be prioritized by the Corps.

Finally, the bill gives the Corps 45 days to deliver and justify its spending plan.

Cancienne said the driving force on any and all activity in Washington is the deficit and the debt ceiling as the economy continues to sputter.

“Until the debt ceiling issue is resolved, in all probability, not much is going to be finalized, whether it be funding bills or authorization bills,” he said.

While Cancienne said he thinks appropriations measures will be approved in the house, he said he is unsure about their fate in the senate, where he said work has not begun on appropriations.

Some, he said, are saying the passage of a Continuing Resolution will be used to keep the government in operation.

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