At least two coastal communities, with more likely to join in, are taking a two-pronged approach -- lobbying and threatened litigation -- to encourage the Army Corps of Engineers to reverse its policy to stop seeking funds for "renourishment" of eroded beaches.

The 1996 Shore Protection Act, they say, restates a long-standing federal commitment to share the cost of shore-protection projects and requires the Corps to seek funds to rebuild and maintain beaches, for environmental and economic reasons. Also, the engineered beach projects help mitigate further storm damage to areas beyond the beaches, they add, hoping that the recent experiences of hurricanes Frances and Ivan will increase sympathy for their cause.

The communities of Avalon, N.J., and Carolina Beach, N.C., recently sent a notice of their intent to sue in 30 days if the Corps does not reverse its policy.

"The litigation bolsters our many friends in Congress who would seek to reverse the policy," said Howard Marlowe of the Marlowe & Co. lobby shop.

"The next Frances or Ivan . . . could wreak havoc," said Lawrence R. Liebesman, a lawyer at Holland & Knight. Liebesman and colleague Rafe Petersen are handling the litigation side of the campaign, while Marlowe is managing the lobbying.

Liebesman said Assistant Army Secretary John Paul Woodley Jr., the civilian head of the Corps, sent letters to 40 coastal communities in February announcing that President Bush's 2005 budget for the Corps civil works program would not include funds for periodic renourishment projects.

At a February briefing to explain the budget, Woodley said: "Our view is that nonfederal interests should carry out renourishment activities . . . just as they operate and maintain other types of projects. . . . The change in policy is driven by the need to have a frugal budget that is reflective of the priorities of a nation at war, and that difficult choices have to be made."

Of course, even if the Corps seeks the funds, it does not mean Congress will appropriate them.

Food Fight Over Dueling Events

Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP), an advocacy group representing victims of foodborne illness and other interested folks, is feeling big-footed by the Agriculture Department.

STOP has been planning for at least a couple of weeks a news conference for 10 a.m. today on its plans to call on President Bush and Democratic challenger John F. Kerry to comment on proposals to protect the nation's food supply, such as creating one federal agency responsible for protecting the food supply, establishing mandatory federal recall powers for tainted food and providing for stricter enforcement of USDA's meat-safety program.

STOP also plans to release a letter it sent to Elsa A. Murano, USDA's undersecretary for food safety, complaining about what it sees as the Food Safety and Inspection Service's less-than-committed interest in hearing from consumer representatives.

Unfortunately, a news advisory came to the attention of STOP yesterday about an event that USDA and other agencies are holding at the same time. USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security will be signing an agreement with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture "to develop an integrated federal-state response plan for food and agricultural emergencies."

"We'd love to think it was a coincidence . . .Every time we try to give them the benefit of the doubt we lose out," said Karen Taylor Mitchell, executive director of STOP.

Steven Cohen, a spokesman for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, said the government was not trying to steal STOP's thunder.

"It's been planned for weeks and weeks," Cohen said of the USDA news conference. "Sometimes these things happen."

Ex-Veterans Affairs Chief to Head Think Tank

Togo D. West Jr., secretary of veterans affairs during the Clinton administration, will be the new chief executive of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the nation's premier black think tank.

Effective Dec. 1, West succeeds Eddie N. Williams, who transformed the organization since 1972 into the think tank that policymakers, pollsters and politicos go to for research gauging the pulse of black America and the impact of federal policies on minorities. Williams is retiring this year.

"It's an honor to be sought out to do it. . . . I think I'll be doing something very important," West said in an interview yesterday.

Currently a lawyer at Covington & Burling, West started at the firm out of law school, taking time out to work in the Ford and Carter administrations, as well as serving as Army secretary in the Clinton administration and senior vice president for government relations of Northrop Corp.

In Other Moves

Michael R. Lemov, most recently deputy general counsel of the Congressional Office of Compliance and former counsel of the House commerce and banking committees, has joined the law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.

Al Jackson, former vice president of political affairs and grass-roots advocacy at the American Hospital Association, has joined Ketchum Public Affairs as a senior vice president.

Alane Dent has signed on with the American Council of Life Insurers as vice president, retirement security, in the federal relations department. Dent previously was at the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies and earlier was legislative counsel for Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.). She succeeds Angela Arnett, who joined the Social Security Administration.