San Diego Union-Tribune

June 29, 2001

House bolsters beach projects in area, Bush plan to cut funding is rejected

By TOBY ECKERT
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives yesterday shored up
funding for several San Diego County beach restoration projects and rejected President Bush's effort to limit federal spending on such initiatives.

The energy and water spending plan contains $750,000 for a beach
restoration study in Oceanside and $400,000 for a similar project in Encinitas and Solana Beach. 

Bush had proposed no funding for the projects in the fiscal year 2002 budget he submitted to Congress earlier this year.

A replenishment effort at Imperial Beach would get $929,000 under the House plan. Bush had budgeted $500,000 for the project.

Lawmakers also rejected Bush's effort to force local and state governments to dig deeper into their own pockets to fund beach restorations.
   
He proposed that they cover 65 percent of the cost and that the federal government pick up 35 percent, reversing the current funding formula.

But the House Appropriations Committee rejected the proposal. The full House voted 333-84 against an amendment that would have restored Bush's formula. All San Diego-area lawmakers, three Republicans and two Democrats, voted against the amendment.

The vote demonstrated the traditionally strong support for beach projects in Congress and, advocates said, a well-organized lobbying effort by beach communities. 

Overall, the bill contains about $150 million for sand replenishment projects nationwide. Bush proposed $87.5 million.

"It's a record level of spending," said Steve Aceti, executive director of the California Coastal Coalition, an advocacy group based in Encinitas.

The White House and its congressional allies on the issue argue that state and local governments should pick up most of the tab for beach restoration because the projects have mostly local benefits.

"Many, many of these areas, of course, are some of the most expensive pieces of property that you can purchase in the United States of America. To suggest that the federal government has the responsibility to pay for 65 percent of the cost of pumping sand back on that beach every year is ridiculous," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.

But lawmakers from coastal states argued that the projects benefit tourists from across the nation and protect the environment.

"Our beaches belong to everybody. Beach renourishment is a sound
investment," said Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C.

The Senate has not acted on the issue yet.