League Leverages the Return of Earmarks

League Leverages the Return of Earmarks

2021 is shaping up to be a landmark year as both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have developed a process to allow members to recommend community projects to appropriations subcommittees for FY22 funding. Earmarks appear to be making a return, although they come with a strict new set of criteria, significant funding limitations, and several, yet, unknowns as to how the process will fully play out. These requests are meant to restore Congress’s Article I powers by ensuring that federal funding is directly targeted toward projects that benefit surrounding communities and the district as a whole.  This process is different than annual appropriations requests constituents have been able to make in recent year--and which the League has regularly submitted—to simply raise awareness of needs.  This process creates a means by which Congress will actually consider requests.


As an example, the House process began with the Committee on Appropriations announcing acceptance of Community Project Funding requests from Members of Congress, designed to help deliver additional, targeted federal funding to select projects in districts across the country.


Some members of Congress, like Representative Newhouse, established an Advisory Board to review submittals and evaluate them against a list of requirements and criteria—including community engagement and support—and determine which projects would have the most impact in their District. Representative Newhouse’s board was comprised of one representative from each county and tribe in Washington’s 4th Congressional District. Community engagement and support are crucial in determining which projects are worthy of federal funding. Only projects with demonstrated community support are be considered.


The following is a summary of the League’s request to Representatives Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers and Senator Murray:


“$2,000,000 – In the form of a grant to East Columbia Basin Irrigation District through the Bureau of Reclamation, for the Odessa Ground Water Replacement Program (OGWRP), an environmental and regional economy rescue program focused on replacing deep well irrigation from the depleting Odessa Ground Water Management Subarea aquifer within the Columbia Basin Project service area with Project water supplies. Remaining ground water supplies will be reserved for domestic and municipal uses while preserving highly productive irrigated lands that drive thousands of jobs in the region. A series of pumping plant and pipeline systems are being built along East Low Canal to serve land now irrigated from deep wells. Funds requested would be directed to the design process and align with implementation of Reclamation’s preferred alternative for the program. System designs at the 30% completion level are required to provide landowners with the information necessary to determine participation. This request also includes $200,000 to automate East Low Canal gravity-delivery head gates to adjust for fluctuations resulting from conveyance of new pump plant diversions, reduce waste and labor, and result in water conservation and safe operations.”


The League’s request was accompanied by numerous stakeholder letters of support from area counties, ports, municipalities, and others.  As of the writing of this article, the League was notified that Representative Newhouse and McMorris Rodgers accepted the request and submitted it to the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee for consideration.  The Senate process is operating on a slightly different timeline, so no notice as to the status of the League’s request has yet been made.


If the Subcommittee accepts a request, it would be included in the draft appropriations bill when the Subcommittee releases their bill later this year. The full Committee is scheduled to markup all 12 appropriations bills in June and pass them off the House floor by the end of July, but that timeline is likely to be pushed later based on historical trends.

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