Even as it rushed to adjourn this week, Congress took the time to refuse formally to spend any more money for 10 dam and river projects. Environmentalists lauded this as a "historic" event.
Congress, in a voice vote Wednesday, deauthorized about $2 billion for some of the hoariest and most controversial projects ever launched by the Army Corps of Engineers, including:
The Dickey segment of the Dickey-Lincoln dam in Maine, a dam higher than the Aswan project in Egypt; the Meramac Park Lake project in Missouri, which was once on President Carter's water project "hit list," and the Delmarva Intracoastal Waterway, which would have run from Delaware through Maryland and Virginia. All three date from 1965, but have been dormant recently for lack of appropriations.
Environmentalists applauded the action. "This is the first time Congress has scrapped projects over which there have been major controversies," said Brent Blackwelder of the Environmental Policy Center. "It's a historic moment." He said the projects had "flunked tests of soundness" in environmental, financial and land use terms.
Edward Osann of the National Wildlife Federation noted that this is the first Congress to deauthorize water projects before it authorized any.
Col. Edward Tener of the Corps of Engineers said, "In general terms the action is certainly consistent with the administration's desires."
The list of defunct programs also included the Sixes Bridge Dam on the Monocacy River near Frederick, Md.; the Nansemond River project near Suffolk, Va.; the Big Blue and the Clifty Creek dams in Indiana and the Lincoln Dam, the Illinois River Duplicate Locks and the Helm Reservoir in Illinois.
The bill that took the action was not totally out of congressional character, however: it authorized the city of Tampa to build two bridges over the Garrison Channel as soon as the Department of Transportation approves the plans.