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Report Criticizes Army Corps of Engineers

by Matthew Daly
Los Angeles Times, March 18, 2004

WASHINGTON -- A new report says an irrigation effort in Arkansas and a flood-control pump in Mississippi are among 29 wasteful projects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The report by the National Wildlife Federation and Taxpayers for Common Sense also singles out projects to deepen the Columbia River and transport salmon around four Snake River dams in the Pacific Northwest.

The Army Corps risks damaging the environment for little tangible economic benefit, says the report.

Corps spokesman Dave Hewitt said the projects are recommended only after they have been molded to represent a sound investment of federal, state and local dollars.

The report calls for Congress to reform the Army Corps, saying that despite efforts by three presidents to curtail projects by withholding funding, a lack of accountability has allowed the Corps to continue wasteful spending virtually unchecked.

In the face of "exploding deficits, Congress continues to spend like drunken sailors on gold-plated pork-barrel water projects," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The 29 projects would cost $12 billion and threaten more than 640,000 acres of wetlands and shoreline areas; about 6,500 miles of rivers and coastlines; eight national parks, seashores and wildlife refuges; and the Great Lakes, the report said.

The report calls special attention to the $319 million Grand Prairie Irrigation Project in eastern Arkansas, which seeks to build a pumping station to deliver river water to the heart of the country's largest rice-producing region.

The Bush administration declined to fund the pumping station project in the current 2004 budget or in the proposed 2005 spending plan, but Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., succeeded in securing $3.2 million late last year for the start of construction.

Terry Horton, executive director of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, said the group will seek an injunction to stop work.

The corps is preparing its environmental impact statement on the Yazoo Backwater Pump project in Mississippi, which supporters say would protect more than 1,200 homes from flooding and improve farming for soybeans and other crops along the Big Sunflower River.

But critics say the $191 million project would destroy up to 200,000 acres of protected wetlands in the Mississippi Delta, as well as harm valuable bottom land hardwood.

Related Sites:
Taxpayers for Common Sense:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

Matthew Daly, Associated Press
Associated Press Writer David Hammer in Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report.
Report Criticizes Army Corps of Engineers
Los Angeles Times, March 18, 2004

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