The FY20 budget process is moving forward in the House of Representatives, with a few “mini-bus” bills that each include multiple appropriations expected to pass before July. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell leader has made it clear that the Senate won’t consider these Democratically led bills, and there has been very little effort in the Senate to move regular appropriations. So while we are pleased to see the House prioritize shore and beach restoration and research for funding increases, it seems unlikely that these funding levels will become law.
Here’s a breakdown of where coastal FY20 appropriations currently stand after Committee mark-ups:
The budget for USACE can be found under the Energy & Water Appropriations Bill. Beyond the listed projects named for Investigations, Construction, and Operations & Maintenance, “Shore Protection” received $2 million in Investigations, $4 million in the Continuing Authorities Program (CAP) 103 line-item and just over $50 million in Construction (this would be a $4.8 decrease from FY19, but considering the level of funding provided in the 2018 and 2019 disaster supplemental appropriations, we are pleased to see it this high).
Beneficial Use of Dredge Material funding was a big push, as the CAP 204 BUDM program doubled from $10 million to $20 million. Additionally, the Section 1122 BUDM Pilot Program saw an additional $7.5 million – now totaling $16 million in funds considering $8.5 million was added for the pilot project in FY19. Regarding the Pilot Program, the Committee directed the Corps to provide more information on cost estimates/timelines of the 10 selected pilot projects within 90 days. Unfortunately, the National Coastal Mapping program took a $6.7 million decrease in funding, but this falls back in line with previous appropriations prior to FY19. Similarly, the Coastal Inlet Research program was passed at $5 million, which was a $3 million decrease from FY19, but still $2 million more than previous years; the Committee again directed the Army Corps to leverage partnerships with expertise at research universities.
The budget for NOAA is found in the Commerce, Justice, & Science Appropriations Bill. Despite significant cuts proposed by the President, the House significantly increased several line-items under NOAA’s budget. This included doubling the amount appropriated to Title IX Coastal Resilience Grants (NOAA/NFWF National Coastal Resilience Fund) from $30 million to $60 million. Moreover, the NOAA Sea Grant program saw a $5 million increase and State Coastal Management Grants saw a $5.5 million increase.
The budgets for USGS & BOEM are within the Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill. Not much changed from FY19 appropriations regarding our focused line-items, but the USGS Coastal Marine Hazards Research Program increased by $146,000. Of note, the BOEM Marine Minerals program maintained FY19 funding levels, but was approved as its own line item. The House did not approve the requested additional resources for programmatic funding of the Marine Minerals program, directing the program to focus its efforts on current projects.
The House have apparently heard the raised concerns over permitting delays and the need for additional staff. The Commerce, Justice, & Science Appropriations Bill raised the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Marine Mammals, Sea Turtles, & Other Species line-item, which includes Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammals Act Permitting Capacity, to $124 million, a $5.6 million increase. Likewise, the Habitat Conservation & Recovery program, which includes Essential Fish Habitat Consultation, was raised by $5.2 million. Congress furthermore directed NMFS to provide a report to the Committee within 90 days concerning the consistent application of regulations. Part of this report is to identify the cause of any observed permit delays and propose measures to improve the permit approval process. Similarly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, budgeted within the Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill, saw their Planning & Consultation budget raised by $7.4 million for addressing timely evaluations and permitting of development projects. While the President suggested slashing the $2.5 million line-item for National Environmental Policy Act streamlining, the House specifically denied this request.
Again, these appropriations are just the proposed budgets from the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. The bills are currently on the House floor (mid-June). On the Senate side, no signs of spending bills are currently in sight. In the end, the House, the Senate, and the President/Administration will need to come to an agreement. ASBPA will keep track of any progress that takes place and will be sure to inform you of any significant updates.