On Friday, September 21, the President signed PL 115-244, the FY19 Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 5895, which combined appropriations bills for the Legislative Branch, Military Construction and Veteran Affairs, and Energy & Water Development that funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The bill passed in the House on September 13 by a vote of 377 to 20, and in the Senate on September 12 by a vote of 92 to 5. This three-bill funding package totaled $147.5 billion in discretionary funding and marked the first time in over a decade that Congress has returned to “regular order” and sent more than one appropriations bill to the President’s desk before the end of the fiscal year. In the case of Energy & Water Appropriations, this means the Corps of Engineers will receive its full funding commencing on October 1 rather than operate under a Continuing Resolution providing funding at last year’s level.
To recap the bill’s highlights, FY19 appropriations funding levels for the Corps’ Civil Works program was $6.99 billion, up 46.08% from the Administration’s request of $4.79 billion. This is the fourth consecutive year that Congress has increased funding for the Corps.
FY19 appropriations funding for Operations & Maintenance (O&M) was a record $3.74 billion, up 24.67% from the Administration’s request of $3 billion.
Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) funding in FY19 was $326.5 million, up 832.86% from the Administration’s request of $35 million to fund only the Olmsted Locks and Dam project on the Ohio River.
The final conference report retained a Senate floor amendment offered by Senators John Thune (R-SD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) to change the cost-share at Chickamauga Lock on the Tennessee River to 85% Federal funding and 15% from the IWTF (from 50% Federal funding/50% IWTF funding). This change will allow full work plan allocations to the top five IWTF-supported projects. Specific project funding amounts will be released 60 days after enactment of the bill by the Corps in its FY19 work plan, which should be on or around November 20.
There was also a statement in the report accompanying the bill which prohibits the use of any funds to facilitate the proposed move of the Corps of Engineers out of the Department of Defense into the Department of the Interior or the Department of Transportation. This language was in response to the Administration’s recommendation to reorganize a number of Federal agencies and departments, including the Corps.