Massillon Independent

February 7, 2006

City levee left out of budget

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON – President Bush’s budget proposal for next year calls for stopping federal funding of the Army Corps of Engineers debris removal at the Massillon flood-control levee.

In the past, the administration has sought and received about $25,000 per year from Congress to pay for the Corps’ debris removal at the earthen levee, which runs along the Tuscarawas River.

But this year, when the administration is seeking to cut domestic spending and reduce the federal deficit, it is not a high priority, according to the Corps.

“Due to prioritization and tight budgetary ceilings ... our project was not prioritized very highly, because it is a small area, it doesn’t have a whole lot of benefits behind it,” said Kelley Campbell, program analyst for the Corps.

“We support the administration in its decision to fund high-priority projects,” she said.

Bush’s budget proposal for the 2007 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, includes $4.7 billion for the Corps, which is charged with planning and carrying out projects that benefit commercial navigation, prevent flooding and coastal damage and restore wetlands.

It’s the Army Corps of Engineers duty to maintain the earthen levee, while it’s Massillon’s responsibility to operate and maintain the three pump stations. The Corps, which owns the levee, also has had the responsibility of keeping the channel clear. City officials said the Corps also has arranged mowing of the levee area.

Campbell said it’s possible the channel will not require maintenance next year.

“If there isn’t a lot of debris in the channel, it wouldn’t need to be cleared,” she said. “So it could be just fine.”

Another option would be for the city to take over the responsibility, Corps officials said.

If the channel were to need maintenance, the Corps could not do the work unless Congress either adds funding for the work or allows the Corps to find money for the project elsewhere in its budget.

As in past years, Congress will review the president’s budget proposal and put together its own spending plan in the coming months.