USACE Programs Come Under Bush Gaze

Thursday, March 01, 2001
The Bush administration may require independent reviews of Army Corps of Engineers' plans for projects that are expensive or controversial to avoid a repeat of the Mississippi River dams study that was found rigged in favor of the project. "The administration is evaluating additional steps, including the need for independent review of Corps planning reports involving controversial or costly projects," the White House said in its fiscal 2002 budget proposal. The Corps is responsible for building dams, flood plains and other public works projects. The president's proposed budget for the federal government included $3.9 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, a 14 percent cut from last year. The National Academy of Sciences was to issue a study later on Wednesday analyzing the Corps' handling of a billion-dollar project to upgrade aging locks and dams on the Mississippi River. A U.S. special counsel recently accused top Corps officials of manipulating data in a pre-construction study to justify the huge public works project that would create jobs for the agency and please farm and shipping groups. Environmentalist groups contend the Corps' study was based on inflated estimates of future barge traffic on the Mississippi River, and that the construction project would threaten wildlife. On Tuesday, Corps chief Major Gen. Robert Flowers told a Senate subcommittee the agency would delay releasing a draft study on the Mississippi River project until September. Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexican who heads the Senate environment and public works subcommittee, criticized the Corps for being too slow to respond to allegations of mismanagement. The Bush budget proposal to Congress said the Corps had "taken steps to start to address these concerns" such as strengthening the oversight of its planning process. The budget request for fiscal 2002, which begins on Oct. 1, would give priority to funding port, harbor and inland waterway activities "that support significant commercial navigation." Congress will spend the next few months debating and rewriting the budgets for all federal agencies. -(Reuters)

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