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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
ENDANGERED SPECIES AND WILDLIFE
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
Take action to help save America's rivers. Visit
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!