WASHINGTON, D.C.—Overriding a veto by President Bush, the House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007 (H.R. 1495) on Nov. 6 and the Senate followed suit on Nov. 8. Votes in both houses significantly exceeded the two-thirds majority needed for a veto override: The House passed it by a 361-to-54 vote; the Senate by 79 to 14.
According to the American Public Works Association, the $23 billion WRDA authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to complete more than 900 projects related to flood control, navigation, water supply, environmental restoration, and infrastructure projects. It also includes significant funding for projects related to hurricane damage along the Gulf Coast and new independent review requirements for projects costing more than $45 million. It also outlines the process for de-authorizing un-built projects that are obsolete or no longer necessary. The WRDA creates a Committee on Levee Safety to make recommendations for a national levee safety review of construction activities for flood and storm damage projects under the Corps’ discretion.
President Bush vetoed the WRDA on Nov. 2, citing a lack of fiscal discipline and priorities. "This authorization bill makes promises to local communities that the Congress does not have a track record of keeping," Bush said. "The House of Representatives took a $15 billion bill into negotiations with a $14 billion bill from the Senate and instead of splitting the difference, emerged with a Washington compromise that costs over $23 billion. This is not fiscally responsible, particularly when local communities have been waiting for funding for projects already in the pipeline. The bill’s excessive authorization for over 900 projects and programs exacerbates the massive backlog of ongoing Corps construction projects, which will require an additional $38 billion in future appropriations to complete."
Citizens Against Government Waste said the WRDA’s distribution of earmarks, including what it called "450 pork-barrel projects," does not match national priorities. The Heritage Foundation called the WRDA "a pork fest for wealthy beachfront property owners." The group cited more than $378 million in earmarks in the bill to replenish beaches, many in wealthy beach communities.
However, the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) said the cost of the WRDA reflects many backlogged projects resulting from the seven-year delay in enacting it. "Passage of WRDA was a priority for the engineering industry," said Michael Smith, executive director of ACEC/Utah.
Summaries and the full text of the bill are available online.