Senate Approves FY17 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today praised passage of a Senate bill that provides important flood control and waterways infrastructure for Mississippi that the President’s budget sought to eliminate.

The FY2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill was approved, 90-8, on Thursday. The bill funds U.S. Department of Energy programs and critical infrastructure projects administered by the Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation. The bill also funds the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), which serve the Magnolia State.

“The severe storms and flooding in Mississippi early this year validates the need to maintain funding levels for the Corps of Engineers. Protecting the public and the economic benefits of our harbors and waterways is important, and this Senate bill addresses these challenges in a responsible way,” said Cochran, who also serves on the appropriations subcommittee that developed the spending bill.

“As the Corps of Engineers continues to assess the damages caused by flood events earlier this year, I will work with my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to ensure these critical needs are appropriately addressed,” he said.

Cochran supported the successful effort to reject the President’s budget request to cut Corps of Engineers funding by nearly $1.4 billion in FY2017. The bill funds important levee and flood control projects throughout Mississippi, in addition to channel improvement and harbor dredging work necessary for commerce on state waterways.

The bill provides $368 million in Corps of Engineers funding for the Mississippi River and Tributaries program, $146 million over the budget request. Among other things, the funding increase will support channel improvements, harbor dredging, levees and flood control work that was either underfunded in the budget or not included at all.

Cochran worked to defeat an amendment offered during the Senate debate that would have eliminated funding for federal regional commissions, including DRA and ARC. Instead, the bill provides $151 million for ARC and $25 million for DRA to continue their promotion of economic and community development.

The following are items of interest to Mississippi in the Senate FY2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill (HR.2028):

Mississippi River and Tributaries – $368 million, $146 million above the budget request and $23 million above FY2016 enacted level, for water resource projects located in the lower Mississippi River Valley from Cape Girardeau, Mo., to the Gulf of Mexico. Notably the bill provides:
$64 million increase for flood control works that were unfunded or underfunded in the budget request
$40 million increase for the Corps of Engineers to use at its discretion to advance ongoing Civil Works projects, including water supply, ground water protection, waterfowl management, educational facilities and other activities
$36.1 million, $4.7 million above the budget request, for construction and maintenance of important mainline levee features
$132.3 million for channel improvements, $29 million above the budget request, for dikes, revetments and main channel dredging activities
$8 million increase for port and harbor dredging along the Mississippi River

Environmental Infrastructure – $68.9 million to address important water and wastewater improvement needs nationwide. Environmental Infrastructure funding was not requested in the President’s FY2017 budget. Numerous Mississippi communities could benefit from this funding.

Delta Regional Authority (DRA) – $25 million, $9 million above the budget request, for the DRA to continue promoting economic and community development in the Mississippi Delta region. Within the overall amount, not less than $10 million is for basic public infrastructure work.

Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) – $151 million for the ARC, an economic development agency focusing on business development, education, and job training in 13 states from Northeast Mississippi to western New York. This funding includes $20 million for industrial site and workforce development in Southern and South Central Appalachia focused primarily on the automotive supplier and aviation sectors. East Mississippi Community College received $6.1 million in ARC funding in September 2015 for a workforce training center at the Golden Triangle Regional Global Industrial Aerospace Park that is focused on increasing Mississippi’s advanced manufacturing and engineering capabilities.

U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) – $25 million for research and development conducted by the Corps of Engineers, which is $8.2 million above the budget request. Much of this research is conducted at the ERDC facility in Vicksburg.

Deep-Draft Harbor and Channel Dredging – $250 million for deep-draft harbor and channel dredging. The President’s FY2017 budget severely underfunded this activity. With this funding, the Corps of Engineers is directed to prioritize dredging needs at commercial ports that have been designated as “strategic” by the U.S. Department of Defense. The Port of Gulfport received a “strategic seaport” designation in November 2015.