8/28/2005

New Orleans Army Corps of Engineers faces record budget cut

Jun 6, 2005
In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding.

It would be the largest single-year funding loss ever for the New Orleans district, Corps officials said...

Money is so tight the New Orleans district, which employs 1,300 people, instituted a hiring freeze last month on all positions. The freeze is the first of its kind in about 10 years, said Marcia Demma, chief of the Corps' Programs Management Branch.

Stephen Jeselink, interim commander of the New Orleans Corps district, told employees in an internal e-mail dated May 25 that the district is experiencing financial challenges

Congress is setting the Corps budget.

The House of Representatives wants to cut the New Orleans district budget 21 percent to $272.4 million in 2006, down from $343.5 million in 2005. The House figure is about $20 million lower than the president's suggested $290.7 million budget.

It's now up to the Senate. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, is making no promises.

It's going to be very tough, Landrieu said. The House was not able to add back this money ... but hopefully we can rally in the Senate and get some of this money back.

Landrieu said the Bush administration is not making Corps of Engineers funding a priority.

I think it's extremely shortsighted, Landrieu said. When the Corps of Engineers' budget is cut, Louisiana bleeds. These projects are literally life-and-death projects to the people of south Louisiana and they are (of) vital economic interest to the entire nation.

The Corps' budget could still be beefed up, as it is every year, through congressional additions. Last year, Congress added $20 million to the overall budget of the New Orleans district but a similar increase this year would still leave a $50 million shortfall.

One of the hardest-hit areas of the New Orleans district's budget is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes. SELA's budget is being drained from $36.5 million awarded in 2005 to $10.4 million suggested for 2006 by the House of Representatives and the president.

New Orleans CityBusiness: New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers faces

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