May 18, 2007

Senate Passes $14 Billion Water Bill

A $14 billion water bill passed by the Senate should help restore the Louisiana coast, as well as authorize hundreds of projects that senators wanted approved for their states.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Water Resources Development Act, approved 91-4, also aims to assure that the Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for federal water projects, bases its work on sound economics and science. In the past, Corps projects have often been tainted by waste and abuse.

Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., leader of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, expressed that the point of the bill is to make sure that the water infrastructure in the country is up to speed.

A similar bill passed the House last month on a 394-25 vote. However, recently the bill has had trouble passing sue to criticism of Corps operations. The original water project act was passed in 1986 and the plan was to have it renewed every two years. The last bill made it through congress in 2000.

Houston Chronicle reports that the White House opposed both the House and Senate bills because they were too expensive, busied the Corps projects outside its main missions and would increase the federal cost-share for many projects.

About one-fourth of the money, some $3.5 billion, will go to Katrina-damaged Louisiana. The upper Mississippi and Illinois River area would get $1.95 billion for seven new locks and $1.7 billion for ecosystem restoration.

The bill also allows costs of more than $2 billion for projects in California and $2 billion for Florida, most of which will go towards restoring the Everglades.