Members of Texas’ congressional delegation are gearing up for a “marathon” effort to secure funding for a long-sought barrier to protect the Texas Gulf Coast from catastrophic storm surge.
That’s because it’s unlikely much, if any, of the resiliency funding in the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law this month will go toward the $29 billion project.
The effort will begin in earnest next year, when Texans in both chambers will push to include federal authorization for the so-called “Ike Dike” in a massive water resources bill that Congress passes every two years. But members of the delegation are bracing for what will likely be a long, difficult push for as much as $18 billion in federal funding.
“This is going to develop over a number of years,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, told Hearst Newspapers. “This is going to be a marathon.”
Cornyn said he doesn’t anticipate trouble getting the federal OK for the project in the 2022 Water Resources Development Act, a biennial, typically bipartisan bill that helps pay for flood mitigation infrastructure across the country.
But the water bill typically doesn’t pass Congress until fall or winter, and it isn’t expected to include funding for the coastal spine.
“That’s going to be a heavy lift because, unfortunately, it’s easier to get money after a natural disaster than it is to prevent one,” Cornyn said.
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget is preparing to present the project to Congress for authorization and appropriations, said Lynda Yezzi, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps.
Members of the Texas delegation earlier this year had hoped to get a jump on funding as they pushed to include a dedicated stream of money for coastal resiliency measures like the Ike Dike in the infrastructure bill.
“Now is the time to be innovative and strategic and to spend our resources preparing, in partnership with our local stakeholders and capable federal partners,” Texas members of Congress led by U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, a Houston Democrat, wrote to leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in May.
That didn’t happen. Instead the package included funding for $47 billion for a wide range of resiliency projects, including coastal projects, but also to help brace against flooding, droughts and wildfires and bolster cybersecurity.
The bill also included about $9.6 billion in funding for the Army Corps, which is overseeing the project. But the Army Corps has a deep backlog that currently includes more than $100 billion worth of work.
“This is why we need to continue to advocate for more opportunities,” Fletcher said in an interview with Hearst Newspapers.
Fletcher said the resiliency funding in the $1 trillion infrastructure package — some of which is targeted to states that have been affected by federally declared disasters, including Texas — is a “good start.” But she said the delegation needs to continue to push for a dedicated funding stream for coastal resiliency projects.
Looking at my last post, I see that we were just at the “presentation of the finalized plan” part of the process, and that getting funding was next. Which is where we are, and at least there appears to be a pathway from here. But we’re still years out from any reasonable expectation that construction will begin, and that’s an awful lot of risk to bear in the meantime. Sure hope our luck holds out.