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American ShipperShippingTrade and Compliance

Decisions on five water projects expected by July

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, commanding general for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, told lawmakers he expects to complete five chief’s reports and recommend changes to two private sector-sponsored projects by mid-summer.

   House Transportation Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves, R-La., on Thursday said timelines for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water resource projects take too long, while Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, commanding general for the Corps, told lawmakers he expects to complete five chief’s reports and recommend changes to two private sector-sponsored projects by mid-summer.
   Semonite said he foresees 11 more chief’s reports – which include final recommendations for whether Corps civil works projects should proceed – by the end of this fiscal year.
   Defense secretaries make the final decision about what Corps water resource civil works projects will move forward.
   He added that he believes the Corps will soon approve two Post Authorization Change Reports (PACRs), which detail potential modifications, updated costs, and maximum cost increases for non-federal-sponsored projects.
   Such reports are required under the Water Resources Development Act of 1986.
   “We’ll give you that list, so you have that,” Semonite said to Graves.
   The Corps’ primary civil works mission areas are flood risk management, navigation, and aquatic ecosystem restoration.
   For his part, Graves criticized the Corps for taking too long in approving civil works projects, noting he had made sparse progress with several of Semonite’s predecessors on the issue.
   “I think the timeline for our water resource projects are completely unacceptable,” Graves said. “I think the ratio of getting $1 to $2 billion [in federal funds] for a $100 billion program is ridiculous.”
   Under both Obama and Trump administrations, Corps missions are “being circumvented” through getting carried out by other agencies, Graves said.
   “I think that goes back to the lack of efficiency in delivering some of these projects,” he said. “And most importantly, these projects aren’t luxuries. These projects, in many cases, mean life or death.”
   Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., mentioned the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee authorized the full Savannah Harbor Expansion Project in 2014, and that the State of Georgia “fronted” $266 million for the project, whose completion is anticipated in 2021, and plans to put another $35 million into the project.
   He said the state “is having a tough time” getting additional funding from the Trump administration for the project, as $49 million was in the President’s fiscal year 2019 funding request for Savannah.
   “I just wanted to put that on your radar screen,” Woodall said. “We’re going to have to start having that conversation about how to be better partners with you.”

Brian Bradley

Based in Washington, D.C., Brian covers international trade policy for American Shipper and FreightWaves. In the past, he covered nuclear defense, environmental cleanup, crime, sports, and trade at various industry and local publications.

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