Friday, July 15, 2011

House Approves Energy and Water Funding Bill for Fiscal Year 2012

The full House today (July 15) passed the 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill (H.R. 2354, the fiscal year 2012 Energy, Water, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill)The spending bill  provides $24.7 billion for the Department of Energy, $4.8 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers and $934 million for Department of Interior's Bureau of Reclamation.  It was passed on a largely party-line vote of 219-196 (roll call vote here) and now moves to the Senate.  The Army Corps funding level is actually slightly more than the $4.63 billion requested by the President in his 2012 budget proposal; not an unexpected outcome, given a Congressional history of adding spending for particular Army Corps' flood control, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects.  The House Appropriations Committee's press release concerning the bill's passage, including a description of the measure's approved amendments can be found here.

Among the measure's more controversial provisions is one that would block funding for a new Obama administration policy aimed at better-defining Clean Water Act protections over wetlands and streams, and another that prohibits funding to conduct a study relating to the Army Corps' Missouri River Projects (known as the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study), required by the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Law.

The bill also includes provisions (adopted as amendments) that would:
  • provide $1 billion in emergency funding for responses to this year's floods in the Mississippi and Missouri river basins,
  • add $6.3 million  to Army Corps Operation and Maintenance for dredging of waterways, at the expense of a similar-sized cut to supervision and general administrative expenses in the headquarters of the Corps of Engineers
  • reduce funding for a Missouri River Fish and Wildlife project by $1.75 million
  • increase Operations and Maintenance funding for river levee repair by $1 million
Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study (MRAPS) Background
MRAPS is a broad-based study designed to review Army Corps of Engineers' Missouri River Project purposes established by the Flood Control Act of 1944, including a review of the effects on the Mississippi River of Army Corps authorized works.  The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act authorized the $25 million MRAPS to “determine if changes to the authorized Missouri River project purposes and existing Federal water resource infrastructure may be warranted.”

The study was to be conducted at 100 percent federal expense.    For any management alternative addressed in the study, the Corps was to evaluate all relevant impacts, including impacts on the Mississippi River.  The implementation guidance directing the MRAPS calls for study completion in five years, with consideration of climate change and compliance with Corps planning guidance, including internal and external reviews.

The study is designed to analyze eight authorized purposes in view of the current Basin values and priorities to determine if changes to the existing purposes and existing Federal water resource infrastructure may be warranted. Those eight authorized purposes include flood control, water supply, navigation, water quality, irrigation, recreation, hydropower, and fish and wildlife.  The MRAPS project area covers the entire Missouri River Basin and its tributaries and the scope of the review includes Army Corps projects (especially the Missouri River main stem lake projects), and a review of their impacts on the Mississippi River.  The Army Corps of Engineers is working collaboratively on the study with Tribes, Federal and State agencies, and other stakeholders within the Missouri River Basin and along the Mississippi River.

The Army Corps' Omaha and Kansas City Districts are co-leads for the study, with Omaha having the management lead.  The Corps' Northwestern Division will also coordinate closely with the Mississippi Valley Division, and a St. Louis District technical team will assist in conducting the study.   The Corps initiated work on MRAPS in October 2009, following receipt of the study implementation guidance, with outreach to basin stakeholders about their interests and concerns relative to the study (the Corps held  a series of scoping meetings - including some along the Mississippi River - during the summer of 2010 to provide input to the formal study scope and external organization involvement plan).

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