Congress overrides veto of water resources bill

Congress overrode President Bush’s veto of the Water Resources Development Act on Nov. 8, ratifying its authorization of $23 billion in projects, including a $444 million flood damage reduction project at 198.72-MW Folsom Dam in California.

The Senate voted 79-14 to overturn Bush’s veto. The House had overwhelmingly met the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto when it voted 361-54 on Nov. 6.

The water resources bill authorizes funding for nearly 900 projects and studies across the United States — including flood control, improving navigation on waterways, and restoring the environment. (HNN 9/26/07) The administration said the bill was “fiscally irresponsible” because it contained billions of dollars worth of special projects supported by individual lawmakers.

Many lawmakers contend the projects are needed because it has been seven years since the last water resources bill was passed. However, Bush said the bill would only further exacerbate a backlog of projects for the Corps of Engineers by adding more projects, many of which were not necessary.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., agreed, saying the Corps already was overworked and carried a $58 billion backlog of authorized but unfunded projects.

Bill authorizes $444 million for Folsom spillway work

The Folsom work includes an auxiliary spillway to protect the Sacramento region. (HNN 5/28/07) The spillway would be built by the Corps, which operates the dam for flood protection, and the Bureau of Reclamation, which is responsible for dam safety. Work could total $683 million, including the $444 million in federal costs authorized in the WRDA.

Another provision would authorize the appropriation of $500,000 for the Secretary of the Army to study the potential to carry out ecosystem restoration and hydropower generation at dams in Vermont. The study would determine the feasibility of providing water resource improvements and small-scale hydro generation in the state, including options for hydro, dam restoration, dam removal, and fish passage.

Another provision would authorize the appropriation of $12 million to the Secretary of the Army to offer assistance to enhance dam safety at 15 locations in seven states.

Also in the bill is language authorizing $35 million for research and development of Columbia and Snake River salmon survival.

Other big-ticket items in the bill include $3.6 billion in wetlands and coastal restoration, flood control, and dredging for hurricane-wracked Louisiana. Another $2 billion is authorized for restoration of the Florida Everglades. Another $2 billion authorization is included for the Corps to build seven new locks on the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

Six weeks into the new fiscal year, none of the 12 annual federal spending bills have been signed into law and Bush has threatened to veto ten of them. To avoid a government shutdown that would have otherwise resulted, Congress voted for the second time Nov. 8 to pass a temporary funding bill that continues the government operating at existing levels through Dec. 14. Lawmakers passed a similar measure in late September that expires on Nov. 16.

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