For Rep. Thomas J. Huckaby (D-La.), there's a $45 million drainage project that environmentalists say will turn another 35,000 acres of the state's disappearing bottomland forests into soybean fields.
For Del. Fofo I.F. Sunia (D-American Samoa), there's a $400,000 fuel dock for the Rainmaker Hotel.
Rep. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) is in for a $3.6 million irrigation project to help northern potato growers compete with their counterparts in Idaho. Rep. Richard H. Lehman (D-Calif.) snagged a $15 million highway to augment the New Melones Dam and Reservoir in his district.
With the debate over the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction plan still echoing faintly through the chamber, the House of Representatives is scheduled to take up today a piece of legislation dearer to its heart: a water resources bill that would authorize more than $20 billion worth of new dams, reservoirs, harbors, channels and drainage projects for the Army Corps of Engineers.
It could, of course, turn out to be a meaningless exercise.
"If Gramm-Rudman becomes law, all this stuff becomes moot," said one congressional aide. "None of this gets built."
For the present, however, the House apparently has decided not to think about it.
The bill would authorize nearly 300 projects, the first new ones in almost a decade, ranging from a $100,000 small-boat harbor for Peoria, Ill., to a $460 million dredging project that would deepen Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors and create another 800 acres of land for developers in San Pedro Bay.
There is more than $340 million in "shore protection" projects designed to keep nature from rearranging the nation's most favored tourist beaches. In a bow to the East, where legislators have complained mightily that traditional projects unduly favored the South and West, there is nearly $1 billion in subsidized loans to help cities upgrade aging water systems.
There is also a White House veto threat hanging over it all.
"If something like this were presented to President Reagan, he'd zap it in a minute," said one administration official. "It's a beauty."
In this battle, the White House finds itself uncharacteristically lined up with conservationists, who contend that the bill is bloated with unnecessary and environmentally damaging projects that will create more problems than they solve.
"They're really starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel now," said Brent Blackwelder of the Environmental Policy Institute. "Efficiency is not a feature of this House bill."
It is a classic confrontation between the politics of the deficit and the politics of the pork barrel, described most succinctly last week by the bill's floor manager, Rep. Robert A. Roe (D-N.J.), chairman of the Public Works and Transportation subcommittee on water resources.
"It is all well to go and try to grab something out of the pot, but it is fundamentally wrong if we deny somebody else, and that is the one code that this committee has worked on, that is the one code this committee has taken," said Roe, whose district is in for $174 million worth of water mains, levees and recreational projects.
In no small part because of that code, Congress has not authorized any new Corps water projects since 1976. "They try every two years, and it comes out a laundry list," Blackwelder said. "As a result, it gets to be such a plump turkey that it can't get through."
But Congress must enact a water resources bill by May if it wants to spring the money for 41 projects included in a supplemental appropriations bill earlier this year. Opponents, miffed that the list was laden with projects for members of the Appropriations committees, succeeded in "fencing off" the funds until Congress had enacted comprehensive legislation to take care of everyone else.
The House bill grudgingly accepts the administration's notion that beneficiaries of water projects should shoulder more of the costs, but it includes a liberal sprinkling of waivers. It also would leave untouched an exemption from cost-sharing for the Mississippi River and its tributaries, a provision that Rep. Jamie L. Whitten (D-Miss.) slipped into the supplemental appropriations bill.
The administration also opposes helping cities rebuild water systems, warning that the program carries a potential price tag of $100 billion or more, and it is dead set against several projects that would put the federal government in the business of repairing nonfederal dams.
For their part, conservationists are upset over a provision that would extend federal maintenance of shoreline erosion projects from 15 years to 50. Repairing all those jetties and seawalls will cost $225 million, according to EPI's Blackwelder, and is "tantamount to trying to hold clouds in place."
Both are opposed to provisions that would change the way the benefits of projects are calculated. The bill, for example, would let planners count the jobs provided by a civil works project as one of the benefits of the project. "That takes us straight back to the '30s, when just building the project created a benefit equal to its cost," said one administration official.
In initial skirmishes last week, however, the House gave no indication that it intended to be swayed by arguments about benefits.
One test came when Rep. James Weaver (D-Ore.) attempted to delete the $120 million Elk Creek Dam, initially authorized more than 20 years ago as part of a three-dam project. Weaver noted that the Corps of Engineers has since decreed the dam unnecessary, and the General Accounting Office estimated that it would deliver 20 cents worth of benefits for every $1 spent.
Weaver tried unsuccessfully to kill the dam 10 years ago, when it was in his district. But reapportionment has since put the Elk Creek Dam in the district of Rep. Robert F. Smith (R-Ore.), who did not take kindly to Weaver's assault.
"We should deal with this project as the member representing the area desires," Smith said stiffly. Moments later, the House voted, 200 to 220, to defeat the amendment and keep Elk Creek Dam alive.