Less Money for MR&T Projects

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, yesterday criticized President Obama’s FY2016 budget for diminishing resources for flood control and navigation projects, even while increasing funding for regulatory and other programs government-wide.

At a Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Wednesday to review the FY2016 budget requests for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, Cochran sought cooperation from agency heads to improve or minimize the consequences of cuts sought by the administration.

There has been a steady but sure decline of commitment from the federal government for our inland waterways system, the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project and other projects around the country,” said Cochran, who also serves on the subcommittee panel.

The funding levels proposed by the administration for all of the Corps important infrastructure accounts – investigations, construction, operation & maintenance, and the Mississippi River & Tributaries project – are far below the levels provided by Congress in the recently enacted FY2015 omnibus appropriations bill,” he said.

The budget request for the Mississippi River & Tributaries Project (MR&T) for FY2016 is $225 million in 2016, which Cochran pointed out is more than $100 million below the average amount of MR&T funding provided by Congress over the past 30 years.

The Mississippi Senator also sought an explanation for the Obama administration once again recommending no funding for the Delta Headwaters Project and the Upper Yazoo Projects, which are authorized and designed to reduce flood risks in the Mississippi Delta.

On the other hand, the President’s budget requests increases for the Corps’ regulatory programs and agency expenses, which is again cause for concern. Considering the President’s comprehensive budget is expected to exceed the caps for discretionary spending set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 by $74 billion, I question the level of priority this administration is placing on our nation’s critical infrastructure,” Cochran said.

The chairman acknowledged the budgetary pressures on the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation, but indicated he wants to work toward an agreement to maintain the public safety and economic benefits associated with navigation, flood control and other projects while minimizing budgetary pressures on the agencies.