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Senators Criticize Corps Plan To Get Out of Local Projects

February 14, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Army Corps of Engineers faced strong opposition from lawmakers Tuesday to the Clinton administration’s plan to save money by ending the agency’s work on local flood-control projects.

``There’s nothing in this for the states,″ said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. He was one of several members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who registered objections to the plan at a hearing.

Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., said the Corps of Engineers was ``one of the very few and true success stories any federal agency can cite without a red face.″

The administration wants to stop the Corps from participating in any projects that do not have ``national significance.″ That would mean no federal help for many flood control, dock building and shoreline protection projects that are valued by states and local governments.

The Corps would retain its responsibility for maintaining the Missouri River and other major waterways and ports.

The administration is requiring the Corps to reduce its budget by more than 30 percent over the next five years.

``If we’re going to make this reduction we have to reinvent the Corps of Engineers,″ John Zirschky, the Army’s acting assistant secretary for civil works, told the Senate panel.

``Flood control is primarily a local responsibility especially when most of the flood waters come within a state,″ he said.

The Corps proposed strict criteria for getting involved in a project. Among other things, a project would have to deliver $2 in economic benefits for every $1 that it cost, and the state or local government would have to pay for 75 percent of the construction.

That would eliminate many unnecessary projects, Zirschky said.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said the changes would mean ``an almost total withdrawal″ from what the Corps has traditionally done.

Reid noted that nothing in Nevada would qualify for a new Corps project. He was ready to retaliate against the administration. ``Cut the Corps to the core,″ he said.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked Zirschky why the Corps would withdraw from its traditional role of helping to restore beaches.

Warner said shorelines are a national asset that deserve federal attention.

He described one such beach project in Virginia that has been in planning for 25 years, only to learn now that the federal money would not be there.

``Here the locals have put in all this work, all this investment and they’re left hanging,″ Warner said.

He suggested officials might allow a ``grandfather″ clause for existing projects.

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