In Senate Hearing, Warner Highlights Norfolk Harbor Project & Urges Biden Nominee to Ensure a Nonpartisan Review of Army Corp Work Plans
Feb 10 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today participated in a virtual Senate Budget Committee hearing with Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). During the hearing, Sen. Warner questioned Tanden about her willingness to conduct a fulsome review of recent Army Corps of Engineers Work Plans, given the previous administration’s seemingly politically-motivated decision-making in prioritizing certain Army Corps projects over others that appear to be more competitive, including the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Deepening and Widening project.
“[Traditionally,] the Army Corp of Engineers civil works program…has been extraordinarily bipartisan. There is a thorough review where projects come forward, get evaluated, and then on a basis of points usually get added into that precious New Start category,” said Sen. Warner. “Unfortunately, over the last couple of years, we’ve seen that process politicized.”
He continued, “We’ve seen a project…the Norfolk Harbor…clearly been qualified as the top project to get funded under any kind of objective analysis. But at the eleventh and a half hour, that objective analysis was thrown out the door by the previous administration’s OMB, and a political process took over. So I hope that you will be willing to conduct a full review of the Army Corp work plans to make sure that we can get back to a fair evaluation.”
Given the critical work the Army Corps does in states across the country, Congress regularly provides substantial funding to the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program to help address the backlog of civil works projects. In providing additional funding, Congress has traditionally entrusted Army Corps professionals to determine which projects provide the greatest return on taxpayers’ investment. However, over the course of the past four years, these recommendations have seemingly been ignored or overruled by the Trump administration, in favor of other projects that appear to serve political means.
A New Start designation would allow the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Widening and Deepening project to advance to its next stage of construction and receive Army Corps funding. Currently, the project is progressing using a combination of state and local funds.
Sen. Warner, a former Virginia governor, has been a champion in Congress for the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project, which will expand Norfolk Harbor’s shipping channels, improve navigation, and energize the national, state and local economy. In 2018, Sen. Warner successfullypushed for the inclusion of the Norfolk Harbor project, in addition to other coastal resiliency programs, in the bipartisan water infrastructure bill. Earlier this year, he led the entire Virginia congressional delegation in sending a letter to OMB requesting a New Start designation for the Norfolk Harbor project – a request they made in 2020 as well.