NMMA calls for more USACE funding

Late last month the administration released its Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget, detailing a number of budget priorities and funding initiatives beginning July 2022 through June 2023. Included in the budget outline is funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), a leading provider for public boating access across the nation. The administration’s budget proposal slashes funding for the USACE recreational operation and management budget by over $50 million, at a time when outdoor recreation participation is seeing record-breaking numbers across the nation.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has long advocated for adequate funding for the USACE’s historically underfunded recreation budget.

The USACE is a leading resource manager of the nation’s water-based recreation areas, yet systemic underfunding for the agency has left many of its waterways and facilities in disrepair. With outdoor recreation and recreational boating reaching record highs, NMMA said Congress must better position USACE to keep this critical part of the U.S. economy thriving.

In an interview with E&E News – a leading publication in Washington, D.C. – Callie Hoyt, NMMA director of federal government relations, spoke on what’s at stake should this proposed level of funding go into effect. An excerpt from the piece is below.

While the corps would overall receive increased funding through the president’s fiscal 2023 budget request combined with supplemental infrastructure bill and disaster relief funds, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is asking lawmakers for help.

That’s because the president’s request proposes to cut the Army Corps’ budget for recreational operation and management to about $240 million for fiscal 2023. That’s compared with $295 million in the fiscal 2022 omnibus spending package.

Even though the spending is just a sliver of the agency’s overall budget, the trade group warns the effect could be far-reaching given the Corps hosted almost 300 million visitors at its myriad boat ramps, campgrounds, hiking trails and other scenic areas across the nation last year.

Callie Hoyt, director of government affairs for NMMA, said the agency may be forced to do minimal upkeep or even close some facilities. “They can’t keep the lights on for a lot of different sites across the country,” she said.

Hoyt pointed to corps-operated summer hot spots in states like Georgia, Arkansas and Oregon and near cities like Los Angeles. Top draws for visitors are sites like Lake Sidney Lanier in Georgia, which has 40 corps-operated parks and campgrounds and 10 marinas, as well as the Hartwell dam on the Savannah River, which the Army Corps built in the 1950s for flood control, hydropower and navigation, creating Lake Hartwell.

A spokesperson for the corps acknowledged the fiscal 2023 budget request is less than the 2022 appropriations level and said the corps will look at the funding proposed for all of its business lines to plan for the coming year.

The full E&E News piece may be viewed here (subscription needed).

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