House rejects Dem attempt to protect environmental review of water projects

DeFazio proposed an amendment that would have delayed the streamlining of environmental rules until the backlog of water is reduced to $20 billion or less.

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"There's no evidence that the public participation environmental review process has caused delay," said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). "The problem is not NEPA. The problem is that this Congress has failed to appropriate enough money to keep up with the projects we authorize."

Republicans took the view that environmental rules should still be streamlined in order to help projects get off the ground more quickly.

"The amendment seeks to undermine all environmental streamlining provisions in WRRDA," said Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.). "Regardless of the existence of backlogs, streamlining environment reviews is an essential reform and I believe it will help to reduce backlogs."

DeFazio's amendment was voted down 183-236.

The bipartisan bill de-authorizes $12 billion worth of projects from the backlog, which many members defended as a fiscally responsible move. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) proposed an amendment that would have de-authorized another $23 billion worth of projects, but the House voted that proposal down in a voice vote.

These amendments were among two dozen that were considered Wednesday afternoon. Others disposed of today were from:

— Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), managers amendment providing for the expediting of any ongoing feasibility study for prior authorized projects, and making other substantive and technical changes. Passed in voice vote.

— Bill Flores (R-Texas), prohibiting any actions dealing with coastal and maritime spatial planning under an Obama administration order dealing with ocean preservation. Passed 225-193.

— Don Young (R-Alaska.), requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to contract with private sector surveying and mapping companies when possible. Rejected in voice vote.

— Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), including operation and maintenance costs associated with sand transfer plants in the annual budget of the Army Corps of Engineers. Failed 133-287.

— Walter Jones (R-N.C.), exempting the disaster restriction on projects that non-federal interests may contribute to. Withdrawn.

— Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), establishing a water-based freight policy to improve freight and cargo over waterways. Rejected in voice vote.

— Cedric Richmond (D-La.), directing the Army Corps to calculate the benefits of proposed flood prevention projects. Passed 237-183.

— Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), establishing an Office of Water Storage at the Army Corps. Withdrawn.

Members also approved several en bloc by unanimous consent, which allowed the House to finish up amendments much earlier than first planned. Those amendments were from:

— Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), requiring a government study on how drought-affected regions of the country are having trouble meeting federal guidelines on lake levels.

— Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), requiring the government to consult with minority stakeholders on projects that substantially affect them.

— Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), requiring the Secretary of the Army to include flood and storm damage plans in its annual report to Congress.

— Scott Peters (D-Calif.), requiring the Secretary of the Army to coordinate with FEMA when disseminating emergency communications.

— Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), requiring the Secretary of the Army not to insist on the removal of levee vegetation until guidelines on removal are adopted.

— Pedro Pierluisi (D-P.R.), adding Puerto Rico to a section of law authorizing the Secretary of the Army to waive cost-sharing requirements.

— Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), allowing non-federal entities to collaborate with the Army Corps on selling excess water supply.

— Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), ensuring that Congress continues the practice of authorizing project purposes at Army Corps dams or reservoirs.

— Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), setting up a multi-agency effort to slow the spread of Asian carp in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio River basins.

— Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), requiring the Government Accountability Office to conduct an assessment on the impacts of aquatic invasive species on federal assets.

— Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), requiring the Army Corps to consider activities of the Secretary of the Navy when assessing the operation and maintenance needs of harbors.

— Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), requiring the government to include "expanded uses" of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund in reports to Congress.

— Brownley, requiring a GAO study on the effectiveness of activities funded by the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

— Bradley Schneider (D-Ill.), expanding congressional reporting requirements to include recommendations for mitigating current problems and limiting the construction backlog.

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