On Friday May 5 President Trump signed the budget deal that allows the Federal government to move from its one week continuing resolution to an adopted budget for the 2017 Fiscal Year. The budget deal includes a healthy set of appropriations for flood risk reduction and puts the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on a path toward moving more projects ahead this year. But the late passage of the budget (after 7 months of the 12 month fiscal year), will hamstring certain USACE actions.
The Budget Act includes a typical appropriation (for the past several years) for USACE. FY2017 Corps Proposed Appropriation contains the specific information for USACE. It appropriates $121 million for investigations, and allows the Administration to initiate six new starts. While most people know that the Federal government must first authorize an action, and then appropriate money for that action, it is a lesser-known fact that for USACE projects there is an interim step of a project (or study) obtaining a “new start.” The new start procedure is a way of ensuring that limited appropriations aren’t spread across too many new projects, thus diluting the dollars available and causing many projects to move slowly, inefficiently, and possibly languishing. Here, Congress has allowed the Administration to proceed with six new studies.
On the construction side, Congress has appropriated $1.876 billion for construction and has allowed again for six construction new starts. Importantly, and as a real challenge for USACE and non-Federal sponsors, those six new starts can only be provided for projects where the PPA (Project Partnership Agreement) under which construction will start will be executed by September 30, 2017 (before the end of the current budget year). The appropriation also includes $362 million for the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project and $3.148 billion for operation and maintenance by USACE.
As always, you can see the true detail of the budget in the Conference Committee Report that lists the specific projects to be funded, and the appropriations available for a work plan. As noted on page three, USACE is to prepare a work plan to submit to Congress with 45 days that specifies how the Administration proposes to expend the general funds provided to USACE that are not for a particular project. For all of those projects that did not get a specific appropriation, and for those authorized projects seeking a new start, the Work Plan represents a very important tool for advancing flood risk reduction, ecosystem restoration, or navigation. Once the Work Plan is published, we will provide a link here. If you are seeking any of this Work Plan funding, good luck!! You need to move fast as the key decisions will be locked down in the next week or so.