Trump might tap flood money for wall

The Sacramento Bee - - Front Page - BY EMILY CADEI AND STU­ART LEAVENWORTH [email protected]­clatchydc.com

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is re­port­edly con­sid­er­ing raid­ing dis­as­ter re­cov­ery fund­ing — in­clud­ing more than $1.7 bil­lion for Sacra­men­toarea flood pro­tec­tion projects — to help pay for a wall on the south­ern bor­der.

Con­gres­sional Democrats are promis­ing a fight.

“Congress al­lo­cated these tax­payer dol­lars for vi­tal flood pro­tec­tion projects all over the coun­try, in­clud­ing projects that safe­guard Sacra­mento and over half a mil­lion of my con­stituents,” Demo­cratic Rep. Doris Mat­sui of Sacra­mento said in a state­ment. “It’s un­con­scionable that Pres­i­dent Trump wants to take Sacra­mento’s flood pro­tec­tion fund­ing away to build his bor­der wall, which he re­peated, time and time again, that Mex­ico would pay

for.”

Ac­cord­ing to mem­bers of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, the White House is weigh­ing a plan to tap $5 bil­lion in sup­ple­men­tal ap­pro­pri­a­tions that Congress ap­proved for the Army Corps of Engi­neers to finance ur­gent flood­con­trol projects in Cal­i­for­nia and Puerto Rico. This in­cludes more than $1.7 bil­lion for Sacra­mento projects, such as el­e­vat­ing the height of Fol­som Dam.

“This al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources was des­ig­nated be­cause the Corps of Engi­neers rec­og­nized the se­vere flood risk Sacra­mento faces, as the sec­ond-most flood prone ma­jor city in Amer­ica,” Mat­sui’s of­fice said.

Yuba County is also wor­ried about los­ing $13.5 mil­lion in fund­ing for a flood-con­trol pro­ject to pro­tect Marysville.

“The Marysville Ring Levee pro­ject is an es­sen­tial life­sav­ing pro­ject for our com­mu­nity,” said Curt Aikens, gen­eral man­ager of the Yuba Water Agency. “We’re hope­ful the ad­min­is­tra­tion will fully fund the pro­ject to com­ple­tion and not re­di­rect money away from it, which would leave the city of Marysville at in­creased risk of fu­ture flood­ing.”

The White House is look­ing at ways to fund the wall on the bor­der with Mex­ico that Trump promised dur­ing his 2016 cam­paign. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut down in late De­cem­ber af­ter the pres­i­dent and Demo­cratic ne­go­tia­tors failed to reach a deal on fund­ing for the wall in a year-end spend­ing bill. Trump has de­manded more than $5 bil­lion for the pro­ject, which Democrats have ar­gued is a waste of money.

With the gov­ern­ment now on Day 21 of the shut­down, and fed­eral work­ers be­gin­ning to miss pay­checks, the White House has sought other ways to end the stand­off. In one sce­nario, the pres­i­dent could de­clare a na­tional emer­gency, which gives the ex­ec­u­tive branch ad­di­tional pow­ers in the midst of a cri­sis. Among other things, that would al­low the ad­min­is­tra­tion to re-route the fund­ing from civil works projects to­wards wall con­struc­tion.

In Sacra­mento, the $1.7 bil­lion at stake in­volves sev­eral projects that would help bring the Sacra­mento re­gion to 300year flood pro­tec­tion by

2024. These in­clude rais­ing Fol­som Dam by three feet; up­grad­ing lev­ees in the Pocket and Lit­tle Pocket neigh­bor­hoods on the Sacra­mento River; pro­tect­ing lev­ees on both the Sacra­mento and Amer­i­can Rivers from po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous ero­sion; and widen­ing the Sacra­mento Weir to re­lease more water into the Yolo By­pass.

Richard John­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Sacra­mento Area Flood Con­trol Agency, said Fri­day he had not yet talked to Army Corps of­fi­cials about the po­ten­tial for fund­ing to be di­verted. But he is tak­ing the prospect se­ri­ously.

“We are pre­par­ing, if this does oc­cur, to go back and make a case for our­selves,” he told McClatchy.

Ac­cord­ing to the of­fice of U.S. Rep. John Gara­mendi, a Demo­crat from Wal­nut Grove, seven flood-con­trol projects to­tal­ing $2.46 bil­lion in Cal­i­for­nia could be af­fected by Trump’s pro­posal. An­other $2.5 bil­lion in projects for Puerto Rico could also be af­fected.

Mem­bers of the Cal­i­for­nia con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion say Lt. Gen. Todd Se­monite, the com­mand­ing gen­eral of the Army Corps of Engi­neers, ac­com­pa­nied the pres­i­dent to Texas on Thurs­day to dis­cuss the projects. The head­quar­ters of the Army Corps did not im­me­di­ately re­spond for com­ment.

Any di­ver­sion of funds would also al­most cer­tainly in­vite le­gal chal­lenges.

“Un­der no cir­cum­stance are these funds to be used to fund the pres­i­dent’s pet pro­ject so he can claim a win. There is no emer­gency on the bor­der,” House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rep. Ben­nie Thomp­son, D-Mis­sis­sippi, said in a state­ment. “If nec­es­sary, my col­leagues and I will use ev­ery avail­able method to stop him in this ef­fort.”

In brief com­ments at the White House Fri­day, Trump urged Democrats to “come back and vote” to fund the wall and re­open the gov­ern­ment. Asked about the po­ten­tial of us­ing his ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity to build the wall, he said: “What we’re not look­ing to do right now is na­tional emer­gency.”

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