River at Risk, ORMSS, WRDA, Mining and Timbering
RIVER AT RISK: REPORT FINDS CORPS OF ENGINEERS TRAFFIC FORECASTS LACK RELIABILITY
As a basis for suggesting lock extensions for back-up (auxiliary) locks the Corps had relied on forecasts of traffic growth. However, forecast accuracy on the Ohio and other rivers has been elusive and traffic growth stalled from 1994-2004. An April 2006 report from ORF, River at Risk - An Economic Analysis of Expanding Ohio River Locks, more fully describes flaws in the Corps' forecasting models.
This study raises serious questions about U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposals for spending billions of taxpayers dollars for expansion of Ohio River Locks, and the reliability of Corps' traffic forecasts. (Download the report here w/cover (1.13MB), w/o cover (547kb)
CORPS RELEASE FINAL ORMSS for PUBLIC COMMENT - Deadline April 12, 2011
After a request from ORF, the Corps has granted an extension to April 12 for public comment on its major Ohio River study. The document can be downloaded at http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/pm/ormss.htm. A comment letter will be forthcoming from Ohio River Foundation.
See 2006 draft comment information below.
CORPS RELEASES OHIO RIVER NAVIGATION STUDY (ORMSS)
FAILS TO RECOMMEND ANY ENVIRONMENTAL
MITIGATION FOR IMPACTS
After ten years The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has concluded and now released a study that suggests what investments are required for the Ohio River navigation system thru the year 2070. The study report is available for review via http://www.lrl.usace.army.mil/ORMSS/
The Ohio River Main stem System Study report recommends continued investment in O&M and rehabilitation.Most importantly, it does not suggest lock extensions of the auxiliary (back-up) locks. This is a shift in policy away from talk of expansion of the system with these lock extensions (page 2-20 of reports and prior reports). It does mention different measures that could be pursued at navigation structures to improve the aquatic environment, but it does not recommend any actions be taken.
A review of the report reveals that: (1) the Corps should be applauded and supported for its decision to not recommend auxiliary lock extensions (2) the Corps fails to recommend specific mitigation measures for their navigation structures as they identify in Table 6-5 (this should be implemented separate from the Ohio River Ecosystem Restoration Program)
The Corps' study is an important change in federal policy and a step in the right direction. In prior reports, the Corps had been suggesting that lengthening Ohio River back-up locks was needed to address traffic delays and growth traffic projections. In this report the Corps now agrees with our position that operation and maintenance and non-structural measures can be employed to handle these issues and any new construction benefits would not outweigh the $2 billion taxpayer expense. "While we commend the Corps for changing its tune on the need for expanding the auxiliary locks, we are disappointed that that it does not recommend be take nat the locks and dams to improve the ecology of the river, even though it identifies them in the report," says Rich Cogen, Executive Director, Ohio River Foundation.
U.S. SENATE PASSES WATER RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT ACT (WRDA, S.728) ...AND FEINGOLD/MCCAIN INDEPENDENT PEER REVIEW AMENDMENT
ON JULY 19 the U.S. Senate passed S. 728, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), by a voice vote (individual Senator votes were not logged). This bill authorizes hundreds of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects including flood protection, navigation and environmental restoration efforts. This bill contains an important provision that improves the flawed Ohio River Ecosystem Restoration Program. Furthermore, the Feingold-McCain Independent Peer Review amendment was passed by a roll call vote. It will require the Corps to submit costly or controversial projects to be reviewed by an independent panel of experts in science and transportation. This amendment will ensure that Corps projects are based on solid engineering, are technically and environmentally sound, and are fiscally responsible.
For years, public pleas to modernize the Corps fell upon deaf ears in Congress. However, last August, Hurricane Katrina hit our coast, killing over 1500 people; displacing thousands more; and causing millions of dollars in damage. In the storm's aftermath, we discovered fundamental flaws in our country's national water resource policies. However, rather than learning from the mistakes made apparent following Hurricane Katrina, S. 728 continues to direct the Corps to work on projects that are fiscally irresponsible and threaten both citizens and the environment. The last WRDA bill was passed almost six years ago. It will be many years before we have another opportunity to change the way the Army Corps does business. While dissatisfied with the pork in the bill ($12 billion in projects), the Bush administration has not indicated whether or not it will veto the bill.
The Feingold-McCain Independent Peer Review amendment passed and is described above. Their Prioritization amendment failed. It would have required an independent panel to identify the top priority flood control, navigation, and restoration projects for our country. The panel would share their findings with Congress to guide funding decisions.
Similarly named amendments offered by Senators Bond (R-MO) and Inhofe (R-OK) both failed. They would have done nothing to fix the problems at the Corps.
EPA STUDY SHOWS ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS FROM COAL MINING AND TIMBERING
The USEPA conducted a study that reveals widespread environmental damage from coal mining and timber harvesting in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. More...