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April 3, 2009 - ASCE Statement - Budget for the US Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation

Statement of the
Before the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
on the
Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
and Bureau of Reclamation
For the Fiscal Year 2010

April 3, 2009

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) welcomes the opportunity to provide our views on the budget estimates for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE or the Corps) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) for Fiscal Year 2010.

In its recent report on the concurrent resolution for FY 2010, the House Budget Committee said that the United States faces two significant deficits: the first, a budget in deficit this year alone by $1.752 trillion, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB); the second, an economy running at 6.8 percent, or $1 trillion, below its potential.

These are daunting numbers, and Congress confronts a major challenge in funding the operations of the government in light of the depressed economy and the continuing federal deficits.

But ASCE believes the nation faces a third deficit—one that is as important as the first two. The United States must manage a continuing infrastructure investment deficit. Federal outlays for basic public works systems have declined relative to gross domestic product (GDP) over the past several decades.

In its 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, ASCE reported that the nation needs to invest approximately $2.2 trillion over the next five years to maintain the nation’s total infrastructure in good condition. 

Even with current and planned investments from federal, state, and local governments in the next five years, the “gap” between the overall need and actual spending will total more than $1 trillion by 2014.

Within the nation’s general water resources alone, ASCE identified a five-year funding gap of more than $20 billion.

Nowhere is the infrastructure investment deficit more acute than in our waterways. Of the 257 locks still in use on the nation’s inland waterways, 30 were built in the 19th century and another 92 are more than 60 years old. The average age of all federally owned or operated locks is nearly 60 years, well past their planned design life of 50 years. The cost to replace the present system of locks is estimated at more than $125 billion.

A. Congress Should Appropriate $7 Billion for the U.S. Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program in FY 2010

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has one of the federal government’s largest environmental responsibilities. The Corps provides ecosystem restoration , constructs sustainable facilities, regulates waterways and manages natural resources, and cleans up contaminated military bases.

Forty-one states, 16 state capitals and all states east of the Mississippi River are served by commercially navigable waterways. The U.S. inland waterway system consists of 12,000 miles of navigable waterways in four systems that connect with most of the states in the U.S. The entire system contains 257 locks. The waterways include the Mississippi River, the Ohio River Basin, the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway, and the Pacific Coast systems.

Three-quarters of the nation's inland waterways (9,000 miles) are within the Mississippi River system. The next largest segment is the Ohio River system (2,800 miles). The Gulf Coast Intercoastal Waterway system is 1,109 miles, and the Columbia River system is only 596 miles long, the shortest of the four major systems.

The network includes nearly 11,000 miles of the "fuel-taxed inland waterway system." Commercial waterway operators on these designated waterways pay a fuel tax, deposited in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, which funds half the cost of new construction and major rehabilitation of the inland waterway infrastructure.

Because of their ability to move large amounts of cargo, the inland waterways are a strategic economic and military resource. A recent analysis by the U.S. Army War College concluded that "the strategic contributions of these inland waterways are not well understood. The lack of adequate understanding impacts decisions contributing to efficient management, adequate funding, and effective integration with other modes of transportation at the national level. Recommendations demonstrate that leveraging the strategic value of U.S. inland waterways will contribute to building an effective and reliable national transportation network for the 21st century."

The current system of inland waterways lacks resilience in that waterway usage is increasing but facilities are aging and many are well past their design life of 50 years. Recovery from any event of significance would be harmed by the age and deteriorated condition of the system. Future investment must focus on life-cycle maintenance, system interdependencies, redundancy, security, and recovery from natural and man-made hazards.

In spite of inadequate budgets in recent years, the Corps continues to keep the waterways functioning. It will open new twin 1,200-foot locks on the Ohio River to replace a single, shorter lock built in 1921. The Corps is currently constructing new, larger locks in several states, including Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

The Corps also is embarking on major renovations of several older locks. These projects represent a $3.5 billion investment in modernizing the nation's inland waterways. They also include significant investments in environmental restoration and management.

The Corps is brining new technology online to make waterways navigation safer. The latest innovation is called “real-time current and velocities.” This system alerts waterways users to the real-time speed of wind and currents on inland waterways. A total of six systems will be completed by the end of 2009.

In addition to the infrastructure mentioned above, the Corps has major responsibilities in other areas. It protects coastlines; develops flood-reduction and hydropower projects; oversees 4,300 recreation areas at 420 lakes in 43 states; and operates 134 multiple-purpose projects that contain storage for water supply in 26 states and Puerto Rico.

The USACE also shares responsibility among federal, state and local agencies, and private landowners for raising awareness and understanding of the risks associated with living and working behind levees.

The FY 2009 appropriation for the Corps of Engineers is $5.4 billion, but the construction backlog for the Corps tops $60 billion nationwide. Even with the addition of $4.6 billion for FY 2009 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the investment deficit on our waterways remains at an estimated $20.5 billion through 2014.

►The president’s budget proposal for FY 2010 is $5.1 billion. Despite the difficult budget climate and the dismal economic picture, we urge an appropriation of $7 billion in FY 2010 to begin the long overdue process of rebuilding America’s water resources infrastructure.

B. Congress Should Appropriate $1.3 Billion for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in FY 2010

The Bureau of Reclamation's mission is to "manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public." The Bureau is the nation's largest wholesale water supplier; it administers 348 reservoirs with a total storage capacity of 245 million acre-feet of water. It provides water to more than 31 million customers and supplies 20 percent of western farmers with water to irrigate 10 million acres of farmland.

In addition, the Bureau is the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power, generating more than 40 billion kilowatt-hours of energy each year—an amount equivalent to the energy provided by 80 million barrels of crude oil. In the 100 years since Reclamation's creation, the federal government has invested almost $21 billion in original development costs for its infrastructure and other facilities.

The Bureau operates 348 dams and reservoirs, 58 hydropower generation facilities, more than 8,000 miles of canals, more than 24,000 miles of water distribution laterals, and more than 13,000 miles of drains. ASCE notes that most of Reclamation's major dams, reservoirs, hydroelectric plants, and irrigation systems are 50 or more years old. In December 2007, the Bureau calculated that nearly 80 of the 348 dams (approximately 23 percent) are 90 to 100 years old or older.

The Bureau has identified an estimated $3 billion in total infrastructure investment needs over the next 20 years.

We concur with former Commissioner Robert Johnson, who informed Congress in 2008 that, although the Bureau and its more than 350 operating partners have successfully operated and maintained the infrastructure to date, the aging process will inevitably lead to increased pressure on budgets and user rates to keep infrastructure service and reliability corresponding with past levels. The Bureau and its partners anticipate a steady increase in infrastructure repair needs that will continue to grow over time, the Bureau said last April.

►The FY 2009 appropriation was $1.1 billion, the same as FY 2008, for dams, canals, water treatment and conservation, and rural water projects. Congress should appropriate $1.3 billion for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in FY 2010, with the bulk of the increase set aside for infrastructure renewal under the Bureau’s five-year capital improvement plan.