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S 2131 -- 10/06/98

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Office of Management and Budget


October 6, 1998

S. 2131 - Water Resources Development Act
(Chafee (R) RI and two cosponsors)

The Administration is committed to enacting a responsible Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) in this Congress that is consistent with preserving a balanced budget, authorizes those projects and programs vital to the Nation, and adopts other needed program reforms. The Administration, however, has concerns about the total cost of S. 2131 and the efficacy of authorizing a sizeable number of new projects and programs in view of the existing backlog and continuing constrained budget resources. The Administration looks forward to working with Congress in determining the scope of the program and to resolving differences that move the Nation closer to a mutually satisfactory program.

Cost of S. 2131

The Administration welcomes continued dialogue with Congress to align the number of projects under construction with a reasonable expectation of future resources. The existing backlog of Army Corps of Engineers construction projects is already very large. It will require over $21 billion in FY 1999 and future Federal appropriations to complete the Corps construction projects already underway. In addition, over half of the almost 300 projects authorized in WRDA 1996 will not have received any construction funding through FY 1999.

The Administration believes it is appropriate to authorize an amount of construction spending equal to what can reasonably be funded within the two-year WRDA reauthorization cycle. To do more would only add to the existing backlog.

Additional Concerns

The Administration urges Congress to make additional WRDA reforms and improvements to continue improving the direction and focus for the Corps water resources projects and programs. These changes include:

  • "Contingent" Project Authorizations: The Administration appreciates the inclusion of an expedited authorization of a critical flood control project to address the urgent needs of the communities of Grand Forks, ND, and East Grand Forks, MN, that were devastated by last year's floods. The Administration is concerned, however, about the inclusion of a large number of additional "contingent" project authorizations. Although the projects may be important and their authorization may be sought in the future, they have not completed the normal Corps study and review process. In fact, many of these projects are unlikely to complete the study phase by the deadline set in the bill. The Administration is concerned that, in the implementation phase, such projects would suffer if denied the benefit of a full and thorough study by the Corps. If continued, this practice could weaken the Corps' study process, the Army's project recommendation responsibilities, and the purpose of biennial WRDA authorizations.

  • "Challenge 21" Flood Hazard Mitigation and Riverine Ecosystem Restoration: The Administration appreciates the inclusion of authorization for the Challenge 21 program, which has strong support from many communities. The Administration, however, strongly prefers that the program be authorized for six years at the requested level of funding. The two-year authorization contained in the bill is not sufficient to both implement projects and evaluate their effectiveness.

  • Shore Protection: The Administration appreciates the changes that have been included in the shore protection program. In order to maximize the number of new projects that will benefit from shore protection funding, however, the Administration would prefer the cost-sharing proposed in the Administration's bill. S. 2131 could delay implementation of this change for several years, thereby postponing Federal cost savings that could support additional shore protection projects sooner.

  • Sardis Reservoir Prepayment: The Administration believes that determination of the terms and conditions for prepayment of the Sardis Reservoir is a governmental function that should be the responsibility of the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, and should not be assigned to an independent accounting firm.

  • Project Authorizations: The Administration supports economically justified projects that conform to the Corps' cost-sharing requirements. Consequently, the Administration suggests deleting provisions with special exemptions to Corps cost-sharing requirements and provisions authorizing projects that are not economically justified or a traditional Corps mission, or are premature.


    S. 2131 would affect direct spending and receipts, therefore, it is subject to the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) requirement of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. The preliminary OMB PAYGO estimate of the bill is displayed below. Final scoring of this legislation may deviate from this estimate.

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