Conservationists have long fought the costly and environmentally destructive “pork barrel” water projects administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. One of the most egregious recent examples is a $1.8 billion expansion of locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers—the most expensive inland navigation project ever conceived.
The project was justified by its supporters as a way of handling projected increases in barge traffic. However, studies by the National Academy of Sciences and the Congressional Research Service show that river traffic has been flat or declining for 25 years, with that trend likely to continue. The proposed project, in addition to damaging aquatic ecosystems, would displace funding for critically needed restoration efforts in the Upper Mississippi River, coastal Louisiana, the Everglades, and the Great Lakes.
The lock expansion was included in H.R. 2864, the Water Resources Development Act, an omnibus bill for water projects. Representatives Floyd Flake (R-AZ) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) offered a common-sense amendment that would have required the Corps to show that river traffic was increasing before the project could be authorized.
On July 14, 2005, House Amendment 450 was rejected by a 105-315 vote (House roll call vote 377). YES is the pro-environment vote. The omnibus bill passed the House shortly afterward. At press time, a companion Senate bill had yet to be approved.