Washington, DC — In a stingy domestic budget, the Bush administration has
cut out all federal expenditures for the controversial Upper Mississippi River
and Illinois Waterway lock expansions, according to a review released today by
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Bush administration
proposed budget for fiscal year 2006 completely eliminates the line item for the
estimated $2.3 billion navigation project and omits any further funding for study,
design, or construction.
The Bush FY 06 budget offers substantial funding support for only nine “priority
projects,” including the Everglades Restoration, Missouri River wildlife
habitat mitigation and Columbia River fish recovery. The priority list also
includes $34 million for environmental mitigation from past lock expansion projects,
with the bulk of the money slated for Illinois.
“We rarely applaud the Bush Administration’s record but this is
one action that is hard to dispute,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff
Ruch, whose organization represents Corps employees who have disclosed previous
attempts by Corps management to manipulate study data in an effort to justify
this project. “We are in a zero sum situation – every dollar that
would have been wasted on the Upper Mississippi locks expansion project would
mean one dollar less for health care, education or law enforcement.”
In addition to cutting all future funding, the President’s Office of
Management & Budget (OMB) has not forwarded to Congress the Corps recommendation,
made this past December, to proceed with replacing many of the existing, recently
rehabilitated, and fully functional river locks on the Upper Mississippi River
and Illinois Waterway with costly larger new locks carrying an estimated $2.3
billion price tag.
Terminating the scandal-ridden Upper Mississippi project comes as part of the
fifth consecutive major reduction in expenditures for the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers Civil Works program proposed by the Bush administration. In his new
budget, President Bush proposed a 7 percent decrease in discretionary budget
authority for the Corps Civil Works program from FY2005.
The Upper Mississippi lock expansion project has been criticized by the Army’s
own Inspector General, OMB, and three National Academies of Sciences reports
for using faulty economic models, unrealistic traffic forecasts, and continuing
a Corps-wide bias towards large-scale, expensive structural solutions while
ignoring inexpensive non-structural alternatives such as the scheduling of barge
traffic. At the same time, barge traffic on these rivers has been mired in a
now more than decade-long decline, further dampening the need for bigger locks.