• 45°

Corps funds get approval in Congress, sent to Bush

[11/20/03]Appropriations for Vicksburg-based U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installations for the current fiscal year have been finalized by Congress and are pending the president’s signature.

Budget figures for the Corps’ Mississippi River & Tributaries Project and some of the budget of its Engineer Research and Development Center were approved late Tuesday by a conference committee on Energy and Water Appropriations.

The fiscal year 2004 began Oct. 1. Even though the budget for that year had not been approved by the time it began, federal agencies have continued to be funded since then through routine measures such as continuing resolutions.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., was a member of that conference committee. The bill it produced was expected to be signed this week by President Bush.

In a Wednesday press release, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., highlighted several projects included in the committee’s report that he thought were important for Mississippi.

The MR&T’s fiscal 2004 budget, $324.2 million, is down by $20.4 million, a 5.9 percent cut from the previous year’s $344.6 million.

Included in that total for fiscal 2004 is $12 million for the backwater-pump project for the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. Funding for that project was increased by $2 million, 20 percent, from the previous year’s $10 million.

The Mississippi River Commission administers the MR&T, which was created by a comprehensive flood-control act in 1928. Vicksburg has been home to the MRC headquarters since 1929.

Some of the funding for the Corps’ Engineer Research and Development Center at Waterways Experiment Station is also appropriated by the Energy and Water Appropriations conference committee. That part of ERDC’s funding for fiscal 2004 is $23 million, representing an increase of $2.6 million, 12.7 percent, from the previous year.

The committee’s appropriation to ERDC represents about 3 percent of the center’s total budget, which in fiscal 2002 was about $660 million.

That part of ERDC’s funding goes toward its civil works program, which includes many water-resources projects, said ERDC’s Dr. Jim Houston.

And the conference committee appropriates part of the funding for the Delta Regional Authority. The DRA is a federal economic-development agency for a region that includes Warren and all surrounding counties and parishes. In all, the DRA covers 240 counties and parishes in parts of eight states, including 45 Mississippi counties and 46 parishes.

The DRA’s fiscal 2004 appropriation from Energy and Water is $5 million. That amount represents a decrease of $3 million, 37.5 percent, from the previous year’s $8 million.

A small part of that appropriation was to be used for the agency’s administrative costs, with the remainder to be disbursed as grants, DRA director of finance and administration Fred Cohen said.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, whose 2nd Congressional District includes Warren County, is not a member of the House Appropriations Committee, from which members of the conference committee would normally be chosen.