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NFC: Fw: River Policy Update, Week of December 11, 2000


Will They Finish This Week?
Members of Congress have resumed their budget struggle, taking up 
where they left off before the November 7 election. On Friday, 
Congress passed the 19th continuing resolution to keep the federal 
government running until the final FY'01 appropriations bills are 
approved and signed by President Clinton. The resolution expires at 
midnight next Monday.

The following are the bills Congress must pass:
* Labor-HHS-Education (H.R. 4577): Disagreement has centered on 
efforts to block new workplace ergonomics standards and on funding 
for repairing and building schools and hiring teachers.
* Commerce-Justice-State (H.R. 4690): Disagreement has centered 
on the scope of amnesty for illegal aliens. President Clinton has 
threatened to veto the bill because it contains the narrower 
provisions that he requested. When the disagreement is resolved, the 
bill, which contains funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration, likely will be attached to the Labor-HHS-education 


Sea Lion Rider on Labor, Health, and Human Services Bill:
A dispute over a rider that would delay fishing restrictions imposed 
to protect the endangered Steller sea lion in Alaska has held up 
negotiations on the funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health 
and Human Services and Education. The sea lion rider relates to a 
National Marine Fisheries Service ban on groundfish trawling in 
Steller sea lion critical habitat, issued last August. The sea lion 
has been listed as an endangered species following a drastic decline 
in population. The closure was to remain until NMFS issued a 
biological opinion on the impacts of the North Pacific groundfish 
fisheries on the Steller sea lion and its critical habitat. Offered 
by Senator Stevens, the amendment would give NMFS until July 1, 2001, 
to complete its latest biological opinion and would allow fishing to 
proceed until July 1, 2001, under existing regulations.

Congress Passes Fish/Marine Mammal Package: 
Last Friday, the Senate approved H.R. 2903, a package that included 
language to from two fisheries measures and a bill to aid marine 
mammals stranded onshore. The final bill, as cleared for President 
Clinton's signature, would renew the Atlantic Striped Bass 
Conservation Act, reauthorize the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries 
Cooperative Management Act, and provide federal aid for efforts to 
save marine mammals stranded on American shores.


WRDA Sent to President:
On December 5, the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (S. 2796) 
was presented to President Clinton for his signature. He is expected 
to sign it today, December 11. The bill cleared for the White House 
on November 3. 

S. 2796 authorizes 30 new major projects; direct the Corps to study, 
and undertake if feasible, an additional 120 smaller projects for 
flood damage reduction, streambank stabilization, navigation, 
environmental quality, aquatic ecosystems, shoreline protection, snag 
and sediment removal and shore damage repair; modify more than 40 
previously authorized projects; deauthorize part or all of 13 
projects Congress had previously approved; and authorize 58 studies 
for other projects.

The bill authorizes numerous environmental restoration programs, 
including a $7.8 billion program to restore the Florida Everglades 
Ecosystem. The Everglades program was the most significant incentive 
for passing WRDA in the last days before the election. Also Included 
in the omnibus water projects bill is authorization for the Columbia 
River Estuary Program, the Ohio River Ecosystem Restoration program, 
the Lower Mississippi River Resource Assessment, Upper Mississippi 
River Basin sediment and nutrient study, and the Upper Mississippi 
River comprehensive plan. Unfortunately, WRDA does not include 
increased funding for habitat restoration programs and other 
provisions of the Missouri River Valley Improvement Act. While both 
the Senate- and House-passed versions of WRDA included portions of 
the larger Missouri River bill, squabbling over language differences 
led WRDA negotiators to drop all Missouri River programs.

Many groups were disappointed that the bill failed to include 
significant reform measures for the Army Corps. Among the reforms 
included in WRDA were a study looking into independent review of 
large or controversial projects, a pilot program for post-project 
monitoring, increased stakeholder involvement if found "appropriate," 
and an investigation into the effectiveness of full, concurrent 
mitigation of adverse environmental impacts. 

In early November, members of Congress dropped from WRDA two riders 
that would have allowed the Corps to rehabilitate dams without 
environmental consideration and create a preference for mitigation 
banks over site-specific mitigation for Army Corps civil works 
projects, respectfully. Additionally 52 potential environmental 
infrastructure projects that were in an earlier House version of WRDA 
were NOT included in the House-Senate Conference Report that Congress 
approved and is now awaiting Presidential approval. 

Together, these projects would have authorized $386.7 million in new 
spending, and represent the largest expansion of environmental 
infrastructure for the Army Corps of Engineers since several pilot 
projects were authorized in 1992. A report on the effectiveness of 
the pilot program was due by the end of 1998, but it has not been 
completed. Thus, no consideration of the environmental infrastructure 
projects' fiscal impact or their tendency to subsidize sprawl in the 
undeveloped suburban areas has been investigated. 

For more information on reforming the Corps, visit 
http://www.americanrivers.org/ and click on "Corps Reform" under 
River Campaigns


Take action to help save America's rivers. Visit 
www.americanrivers.org/takeaction today!

Current action alerts:
* Urge President Clinton to Leave an Environmental Legacy 
* Urge the Corps to Listen to the FWS to Restore Missouri River 
* Dump the Pumps! Save Mississippi Delta wetlands! 
* Help Protect South-central Alaska's Roadless Rivers! 
* Anti-Missouri River Rider Stopped! Send Your Thanks! 
* Help Save Snake River Salmon! 
* Support the Owyhee-Bruneau Canyonlands National Monument! 
* Take Action to Reform the Army Corps of Engineers!