From fruit protection to flood control, new bill spreads dollars far and wide

Curtis Tate

The 1,500-page, $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill congressional leaders unveiled Tuesday includes funding for specific infrastructure and economic development programs in several states.

The grants range in size from a $300 million flood-control effort along the Mississippi River to a $750,000 grant to a scholarship fund in honor of President Harry S. Truman. Not every state is mentioned by name, but some programs help certain regions more than others.

Some examples:

CALIFORNIA: $37 million for the Bay-Delta restoration project and $128 million for a port of entry at San Ysidro, along the Mexico border.

The deal includes funding for national programs that are particularly useful in California, including $180 million to reimburse states that incarcerate large numbers of immigrants who are in this country illegally and $2.1 billion to fight wildfires on National Forest System lands. California would consume a large percentage of funds from both programs.

The bill includes no new funds for high-speed rail but doesn’t affect the project already under way.

FLORIDA: $20 million for the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to fight a disease that threatens the state’s $9 billion citrus industry. The citrus disease is also a concern in California, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina, according to Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

The bill bars the Federal Emergency Management Agency from using its 2014 funding to implement higher flood insurance premiums for existing policyholders. Florida homeowners hold 37 percent of the nation’s 5.6 million flood policies, and some now find themselves facing increased premiums.

KENTUCKY: $80.3 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission, an antipoverty program established in 1965. Kentucky has historically been a large recipient of the grants, which help build highways and promote economic development in some of the state’s poorest counties. The funding represents a $12 million increase from 2013.

WASHINGTON: $65 million for the Columbia River Crossing, a new bridge for Interstate 5 to replace an existing span between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., that dates back to 1917. The federal legislation also includes $110 million to complete Sound Transit’s University Link project, which will expand Seattle’s light-rail system.

ALASKA: $10 million for the Denali Commission, a program established in 1998 to help develop Alaska’s basic infrastructure. The state will also receive $10 million for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in rural areas, including Alaska Native villages.

SOUTH CAROLINA: $1.165 million for the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Carolina Port Authority to continue a study aimed at deepening the Charleston port, according to the port authority.

South Carolina lawmakers and business leaders want the port to be deepened to 50 feet in order to accommodate larger cargo ships that will reach East Coast ports thanks to the widening of the Panama Canal. That massive project is slated for completion in 2015.

The legislation also contains $14.825 million in operations and maintenance funding for the Charleston port.

MISSOURI: $307 million for flood control efforts in the Mississippi River valley south of Cape Girardeau. The legislation also provides $750,000 to the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation Trust Fund, in honor of the nation’s 33rd president and native of Independence.

TEXAS: Prohibits the state from tolling its existing interstate highways and prohibits a streetcar project in Houston from receiving grants from the Federal Transit Administration. The federal bill also provides $25.7 million for the inland border crossing at Laredo.

Chris Adams, Rob Hotakainen, Michael Doyle and James Rosen of the Washington Bureau contributed.

By Curtis Tate
McClatchy Washington Bureau