Fourth in a series of Big River articles on the Army Corps Navigation Study.
By Reggie McLeod
By Reggie McLeod
In February Corps economist Donald Sweeney filed a whistle-blower
suit claiming that his bosses replaced him as head of the economic
part of the study when he refused to pump up figures to justify
expanding the lock-and-dam system on the Mississippi River. In
May, Richard Manguno, Sweeneys successor on the study, told Senate
investigators that his boss, Col. James Mudd, commander of the
Corps Rock Island District, directed him to change the studys
economic data in order to justify expanding the system.
Months before the scandal broke, the Northeast Midwest Institute,
a Washington, D.C.-based, nonpartisan, environmental and economic
research institute, asked three economists to evaluate the economic
section of the Navigation Study. The economists, Steven Berry,
Yale University; Geoffrey Hewings, University of Illinois; and
Charles Leven, Washington University, have no connections to the
Corps, shipping interests or groups opposed to lock-and-dam expansion.
The panel found the economics study to be deeply flawed:
Our findings suggest that there is no compelling reason for this
project to move ahead at this time. First, demand projections
provided by the USACE [Army Corps of Engineers] seem to be seriously
at odds with recent evidence and projections provided by other
specialists. Thus, the presumption of future congestion seems
not to be substantiated. Further, there seem to be growing possibilities
for diverting grain to other uses (potentially creating more value-added
for the region) or diverting grain for export to other ports using
alternative transportation systems.
In another development, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS),
put the Corps on notice that the lock-and-dam system and shipping
jeopardizes two endangered species, the Higgins eye pearlymussel
and the pallid sturgeon. The Corps must work with the FWS to relocate
Higgins eyes to environments where they can survive and restore
habitat for pallid sturgeons.
The Corps will also have to reduce damage to several other threatened
and endangered species, including the bald eagle, winged mapleleaf
mussel, least tern and Indiana bat.
The Army Corps of Engineers is a branch of the Army, which is
part of the Department of Defense and thus part of the executive
branch of the government. When Sweeneys whistle-blower suit brought
to light problems in the Corps, the Pentagon and Army began reorganizing
the Corps to increase its accountability. Three Republican senators,
Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.), Environment
and Public Works Committee Chairman Robert C. Smith (R-N.H.) and
Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) told
the Army not to reorganize the Corps. Then Stevens and Energy
and Water Subcommittee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) introduced
a rider to a farm budget bill to prevent the Corps from reorganizing
in the future, according to the Washington Post (5-13-00).
The rider says: None of the funds made available in this or any
other Act may be used to restructure, reorganize, abolish, transfer,
consolidate or otherwise alter or modify the organizational or
management oversight structure; existing delegations; or functions
or activities applicable to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Corps critics claim it is a major conduit for pork-barrel projects that Congress wants to protect. An Associated Press story from mid May reports that Corps and Army officials told a Senate subcommittee that Congress has given the go ahead, but not the funding, for $38 billion of navigation, flood control and other water construction projects. The Corps gets about $1.6 billion a year for these projects.
Reggie McLeod is editor and publisher of Big River, an independent magazine about the Upper Mississippi River.
Copyright 2000, Big River
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