The House hurriedly took up a $5 billion water projects bill on Tuesday, a bill that includes $526 million for a major Fort Worth project, because Democrats were threatening to hold up a must-pass bill that would prevent the government from shutting down this weekend.
The water projects bill, the Water Resources Development Act, was approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in May.
Many House Democrats are unhappy that a short-term government funding bill does not include money to resolve the Flint, Mich., drinking water crisis.
The Senate-passed version does, meaning, say GOP leaders, that it will be taken care of in conference.
“The sooner we get the [water resources] bill through in the House, the sooner we can begin conference,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters Monday.
Meanwhile, Fort Worth’s Trinity River Vision project — a flood control/economic development program included in the water resources act — also drew sniping Monday.
Rep. Pete DeFazio, D-Ore., unhappy that the GOP removed a provision that freed up a harbor maintenance trust fund, asked for an amendment that would cut the Army Corps of Engineers funding for the Fort Worth Trinity River Vision project because it includes recreation facilities.
Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, defended the project Monday before the House Rules Committee, which decides which amendments will go to the House for a vote. The panel was to complete the list of amendments Tuesday afternoon with House consideration of the bill and amendments expected later this week.
“It’s a very critical piece of infrastructure that will provide needed flood protection and economic stimulus to that particular region of Fort Worth,” Veasey said. He said he agreed with DeFazio that the corps’ funds should not go “to fund soccer fields, baseball fields, basketball courts or splash parks.”
“The federal government will not be footing the bill for any of those items,” Veasey said. The city of Fort Worth would pay for parks and recreation in that area, he said.
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, has been a proponent of the project since it was first announced over a decade ago. In a statement on the House floor Tuesday, she urged the House to approve the water bill.
“As a former mayor, I can personally attest to how vital investing in and maintaining our water infrastructure and flood control is. Over the past year we have seen devastating floods throughout the country,” she said.
“Fort Worth needs help to bring our river area up to standards to prevent flooding and prepare for development. By law, the Corps of Engineers cannot pay for amenities like basketball or soccer fields or water parks, and so, therefore of course they have never been asked to. It is against the law for them to pay for it. I repeat: It is against the law.”
The city of Fort worth “in cooperation with the water district and the developers will pay” for the amenities, she said.
The so-called continuing resolution will keep the government operating from Oct. 1 through Dec. 9.