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President’s FY 2015 Corps of Engineers Civil Works Budget Released in March

March, the President released budget numbers for fiscal year 2015, which included $4.561 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the army for Civil Works, spoke on March 4 in support of the President’s proposed budget, with its emphasis on maintaining the country’s coastal channels and inland waterways, reducing flood risks and restoring large ecosystems.

“This is a performance-based budget that funds the construction of projects that provide the greatest returns on the nation’s Civil Works investments for the economy, environment and public safety,” Darcy said. “The Budget continues to reflect the tough choices necessary to put the country on a fiscally sustainable path.”

The new federal funding proposes a budget of $3.517 billion from the general fund, $915 million from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, $85 million from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, and $44 million from Special Recreation User Fees.

The budget also provided $398 million in funding from three additional sources bringing the FY15 total program funding to $4.959 billion. This includes approximately $300 million in cost-sharing contributions to the Rivers and Harbors Contributed Funds account from non-federal partners. Additionally, $20 million in Federal Permanent Appropriations will be available to the Corps in FY15, and $78 million will be available from the Coastal Wetlands Restoration Trust Fund for the work of several federal agencies, overseen by an interagency federal-state task force led by the Corps.

The FY15 budget includes $1.825 billion for the study, design, construction, operation and maintenance of inland and coastal navigation projects. It funds capital investments on the inland waterways based on the estimated revenues to the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. To that end, the budget assumes action to enact a new user fee. The administration encourages Congress to enact fee increases to increase revenue to this trust fund and funding for such investments in the future.

The Investigations account funds $10 million of that total for work on proposals to deepen and/ or widen 12 high commercial use U.S. ports: Baltimore Harbor, Maryland; Boston Harbor, Massachusetts; Charleston Harbor, South Carolina; Freeport Harbor, Texas; Houston Ship Channel, Texas; Jacksonville Harbor, Florida; New Haven Harbor, Connecticut; Norfolk Harbor, Elizabeth River, Virginia; Port of Long Beach, California; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Savannah Harbor, Georgia; and Seattle Harbor, Washington.

The proposed Civil Works budget funds the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of high performing work in the areas of commercial navigation, flood and coastal storm damage reduction, and aquatic ecosystem restoration. These programs protect the nation’s waters and wetlands and generate low-cost renewable hydropower, restore certain sites contaminated from atomic weapon development, and emergency preparedness and training in response to natural disasters.

The FY15 budget funds O&M programs at $2.752 billion, including $152 million for the Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) account. The Corps said the budget focuses on existing projects with the most commercial traffic and safety improvements at federal dams and levees. The budget also funds maintenance work at harbors that support significant commercial fishing, subsistence or public transportation benefits.

The Corps said the administration’s proposed Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative would support its efforts to increase the resilience of water resources infrastructure to a changing climate. This would include investments in small flood-risk reduction projects that use nonstructural or natural approaches to risk reduction and technical assistance to other non-federal, state and local agencies working toward that goal. Also, the initiative would commission an interagency study for the Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation to develop better infrastructure management and strategies for the future development.

In total, the President’s FY15 funding will be distributed among the appropriation accounts as follows: $2.6 billion for Operation and Maintenance; $1.125 billion for Construction; $245 million for Mississippi River and Tributaries; $200 million for the Regulatory Program; $178 million for Expenses; $100 million for the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP); $80 million for Investigations; $28 million for Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies; and $5 million for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

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