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GLIN==> Corps of Engineers Wastes Billions and Harms Environment



Posted on behalf of Sara Jackson (sjackson@nwf.org)
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Corps of Engineers Wastes Billions and Harms Environment

 Immediate Release:

EMBARGOED

March 18, 2004



Contact:

Tim Eder, NWF--734-769-3351 x25

Keith Ashdown, TCS--202-546-8500 x110

Donna Stine, MUCC--517-346-6487

Jennifer Nalbone, GLU--716-886-0142

Stephanie Weiss, Save the River--315-686-2010

Jordan Lubetkin, NWF--734-769-3351



NEW INVESTIGATION FINDS CORPS OF ENGINEERS WASTES BILLIONS AND HARMS
ENVIRONMENT; HIGHLIGHTS MOST WASTEFUL PROJECTS IN THE NATION



Investigation Ranks Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Navigation System
Expansion Among Nation's Emerging Threats



WASHINGTON, DC- Defiant after four years of scandals that rocked the agency,
the Corps of Engineers (Corps) is moving ahead with more than $12 billion in
projects that harm the environment and waste taxpayer dollars, according to
a two-year investigation that reveals a recipe of politics and pork that has
led Congress to turn a blind eye to legislative fixes that could stop many
of these projects in their tracks.



The investigation ranks the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Navigation System
Expansion as an emerging threat to American taxpayers and the environment.



In conducting the investigative report Crossroads: Congress, the Corps of
Engineers and the Future of America's Water Resources, the National Wildlife
Federation (NWF) and Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) read through tens of
thousands of pages of Corps documents and conducted dozens of interviews to
rank the most environmentally and fiscally wasteful water projects in the
nation. The report provides an action agenda for the Congress and the Bush
administration to redirect the Corps toward more responsible, cost effective
projects that protect the environment and use tax dollars wisely.



"We've documented a host of horror stories of Corps' projects that waste tax
dollars and harm wildlife and the environment," says David Conrad, NWF's
Senior Water Resources Specialist. "It's a hit parade of the worst of the
worst - with the nation's treasury and natural resources taking the hit."



"Despite exploding deficits, the Congress continues to spend like drunken
sailors on gold-plated pork-barrel water projects," says Steve Ellis, Vice
President of Programs at Taxpayers for Common Sense. "The problem is that
the Corps of Engineers is aiding and abetting this spending spree because
they have never met a boondoggle they didn't like."





The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Navigation System Expansion exhibits many
of the serious economic and environmental issues that Crossroads uncovered
in Corps projects across the nation.  Earlier predictions of increased
ocean-going shipping through the Great Lakes have failed to materialize.
Yet, the Corps is dusting off previously rejected proposals to deepen and
widen shipping channels and expand locks to accommodate additional and
larger ships.  The studies alone will cost at least $20 million, with
construction of the project ranging as high as $15 billion.  According to
the Corps, the project would require dredging hundreds of millions of cubic
yards of sediments, destroying habitat for fish and waterfowl and stirring
up mercury, PCBs and other pollution.  Extensive dredging could also
exacerbate already lower lake levels, harming shoreline property owners and
local businesses such as marinas and recreational boat ramps. Ocean going
vessels also carry the risk of more invasive species such as zebra mussels
that are introduced through the ship's ballast tanks.



"The Great Lakes fishery is vital to Michigan's people and wildlife," says
Sam Washington, President of Michigan United Conservation Clubs.  "If built,
this project could further threaten our Great Lakes by spreading invasive
species, lowering lake levels, dredging up buried pollutants and destroying
important fish and wildlife habitat."



 "Seaway expansion represents everything that shouldn't become the future of
the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes," says Stephanie Weiss, Executive
Director of Save the River.  "It spells disaster for a resource that's too
important to risk."



"The fact is that Great Lakes cities are located thousands of miles inland
and hundreds of feet above sea level," says Jennifer Nalbone, Habitat and
Biodiversity Coordinator for Great Lakes United.  "Trying to make them
competitive with ocean ports for international cargo has never made sense."



No federal agency has greater influence over the nation's waterways,
wetlands, floodplains, and coasts than the Corps of Engineers.  While
Congress has recognized that the Corps is flawed and the Corps admits that
it has to change, the agency's self-serving claims of reform ring hollow.
Crossroads exposes systemic failures within the agency that cause it to push
bad projects that continue to harm the environment at enormous taxpayer
expense. For example, the Corps continues to promote large-scale flood
control in sparsely populated areas and navigation improvements for phantom
barge traffic.



For each of the past three years, the Bush administration has recommended
positive steps to reduce waste in the Corps' program by proposing budget
cuts to many of the most wasteful Corps projects that are highlighted in
Crossroads. Unfortunately, the administration has failed to follow through
and defend those budget cuts.



"The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River expansion project comes up as a waste of
money every time it has been reviewed," says Nalbone. "Congress keeps
throwing this dog project a bone. It's up to the administration to stop this
waste."



In the case of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Navigation System
Expansion, Congress appropriated $2 million for the study in fiscal year
2004, despite the administration's request for less than half that amount.
In fiscal year 2005, the administration recommended just $800,000 for the
study.



In the near future, the U.S. Senate is expected to consider the 2004 Water
Resources Development Act (WRDA), legislation that could authorize as much
as $8 billion worth of new Corps projects. The upcoming WRDA presents a
landmark opportunity for enacting new policies to change the way the agency
does business.



"Congress needs to change the rules of the game for the Corps by cutting bad
water projects and permanently redirecting the agency to use tax dollars
wisely to restore America's waterways," says Conrad.



If the Corps makes necessary changes in its policies and procedures, the
agency could become a powerful force for restoring and enhancing the
country's environment, according to Crossroads.  A reform agenda must
include:

. Holding the Corps accountable to the public

. Modernizing the Corps' approach to water management so that projects are
environmentally sound and less expensive

. Prioritizing the Corps' workload to meet the nation's most pressing needs

. Ensuring that project beneficiaries share equitably in the costs of
projects



The Corps has consistently overestimated predictions of future traffic for
massive navigation projects that have failed to produce the benefits
promised. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Navigation Expansion would be
the largest, most expensive project in the Corps' history. Before the Corps
moves forward with the study, the American public must have a great deal
more assurance that the Corps' results are accurate and reliable. Crossroads
cites repeated incidences of projects that failed to produce predicted
benefits at enormous taxpayer expense and failed to safeguard resources.
Any navigation project affecting the Great Lakes must first protect and
restore North America's most important freshwater resource.



Mounting numbers of people and organizations from across the country are
calling for reform.  More than 100 organizations, including Great Lakes
United, Save the River, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, NWF, and TCS are
now involved in the Corps Reform Network and working with members of
Congress to compel the agency to change.



The 100-page report is available online at www.nwf.org and www.taxpayer.net.



Protecting wildlife through education and action since 1936, the National
Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization creating
solutions that balance the needs of people and wildlife now and for future
generations.



Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) is a non-partisan advocate for America
taxpayers.  TCS is dedicated to cutting wasteful spending and subsidies in
order to achieve a responsible and efficient government that lives within
its means.



###


 Sara Jackson
 sjackson@nwf.org
 734-769-3351


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