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Senate Panel Boosts Corps' Columbia River Budget

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - July 26, 2002

Senate appropriators have agreed to increase the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for the Columbia River salmon mitigation by $6 million next year, to $87 million.

The funding was included in the FY2003 energy and water development spending bill, which was approved by the Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. The House Appropriations Committee, which traditionally acts first, has postponed its action on the bill until September.

The $87 million for Columbia and Snake river dam fish mitigation is $11 million less than President George W. Bush sought in his FY2003 budget request in February. But in its report on the bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee said that reduction "should in no way be considered any diminution of interest or support for these vitally important mitigation projects by the Committee. Rather it reflects the fiscal constraints with which the Committee is faced with."

Within the $87 million, the committee recommended that $300,000 be spent on a reconnaissance level investigation of Columbia River flood control operations to determine what changes, if any, would benefit endangered species, particularly salmon. "Evaluation beyond the reconnaissance phase is subject to agency review and congressional notification," the committee report said.

Overall, the committee provided $26.3 billion for energy and water bill, which also funds the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Energy nuclear waste clean-up program. That is $1.1 billion more than FY02 and $789 million more than Bush sought.

Most of the bill's increase went for homeland security and to restore $550 million in "shortfalls" in Bush's budget for water projects and improvements sponsored by members of Congress.

Bush's budget cuts, which led to the resignation earlier this year of undersecretary Mike Parker, threatened "the nation's economy and quality of life" and left the committee "no option but to step forward in support of these vital projects," it said. It increased the budget for the Corps of Engineers to $4.65 billion, $475 million above Bush's budget, and the Bureau of Reclamation to $956 million, $75 million higher.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and other Northwest members succeeded in restoring $5 million to continue planning and studies for the Columbia River Channel Deepening project, which the president's budget omitted. No construction money was included for lower Columbia River ecosystem restoration, as part of the committee's decision not to initiate any new construction projects in FY03, but $300,000 to continue studies was provided.

Other Northwest Corps of Engineers construction projects receiving funds included:

Within the operations and maintenance budget for Columbia River locks and dams, the committee provided $400,000 above the budget request for Bonneville to implement the Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion.

For John Day it increased the budget request by $1.6 million for significant safety repairs to the navigation lock, continued major rehabilitation evaluation to address significant foundation problems, and actions to implement the Columbia River Biological Opinion.

Other aspects of Columbia and Snake river salmon recovery are funded through the Bureau of Reclamation, which received $15 million, the same as last year, mainly for water acquisition and leasing.

The Senate committee said it provided $500,000 above the budget request for continued fishery habitat improvements in the John Day River Subbasin Project.

Murray said she gained funding for a number of Puget Sound fish habitat improvements and $800,000 for farming, tribal, environmental, and irrigation interests to work together to address water supply and fish habitat issues in the Walla Walla River Watershed. That is twice the amount in the president's budget.

The committee did not approve an increase in the Bonneville Power Administration's federal borrowing authority as sought by Northwest members and Bush. An aide to Murray said discussions with Budget Committee leaders were ongoing and that an effort to add the authorization would be made later.

BPA has asked for a $2 billion increase in loans over the next five years mainly to finance transmission line construction and improvements. Bush included $700 million in his budget.

Senate Panel Boosts Corps' Columbia River Budget
Columbia Basin Bulletin, July 26, 2002

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