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Trump's Border Wall: President Eyes Taking Money from California Flood Projects to Pay Costs

Bay Area officials said Friday that they are stunned by the possibility that money already approved by Congress for an important flood control project on San Jose’s shoreline could somehow be shifted to Trump’s pet project.

by John Woolfolk and Paul Rogers, The Mercury News / January 11, 2019

(TNS) — President Trump is considering taking more than $2 billion already approved by Congress for flood control projects in California to use as funding to build a border wall, according to a Democratic lawmaker.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, told the Los Angeles Times the Army Corps of Engineers presented the project list — including new levees to protect homes, schools and businesses on the San Francisco Bay shoreline in North San Jose — to the President as he headed to Texas on Tuesday to bolster his case for a border wall.

The Army Corps list Garamendi’s office provided to this news organization totals $2.47 billion and includes the following California projects:

American River, Common Features: $1,565,750,000

American River Watershed (Folsom Dam Raise): $216,523,185

Isabella Lake: $258,231,000

Santa Ana River Mainstem: $161,643,000

South San Francisco Shoreline: $177,200,000

Tule River/Lake Success Enlargement (Success Dam): $74,000,000

Yuba River Basin: $13,586,000

The Corps also identified a half-dozen projects in Puerto Rico totaling $2.5 billion:

Rio de La Plata: $500,000,000

Rio Grande de Arecibo: $82,892,000

Rio Grande de Loiza: $250,000,000

Rio Guanajibo at Mayaguez: $60,000,000

Rio Nigua at Salinas: $60,000,000

Rio Puerto Nuevo: $1,552,453,000

The White House press office did not immediately respond to questions about the list.

Further details about the listed projects were not immediately available. The list was a construction account of Long Term Disaster Recovery Investment Plan projects funded under the BiPartisan Budget Act of 2018.

Garamendi, a former California lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner, sits on House Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees. The New York Times also reported late Thursday that the White House “has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to determine whether it can divert for wall construction $13.9 billion allocated last year,” citing Defense Department and congressional officials who insisted no anonymity.

Bay Area officials said Friday that they are stunned by the possibility that money already approved by Congress for an important flood control project on San Jose’s shoreline could somehow be shifted to Trump’s pet project.

Dick Santos, a member of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, noted that the $177 million South Bay Shoreline Project has been in the planning stages for years, and that work has been scheduled to start this summer.

The project would build four miles of new levees around Alviso and nearby areas over the next four years to project the flood-prone communities in major winter storms, and as the bay’s water level continues to rise from climate change. The new earthen levees, which are planned to be 15 feet high, replacing old levees that are roughly 5 to 10 feet high, is part of ongoing restoration efforts to convert former Cargill industrial salt ponds in the South Bay back to tidal marshes for fish and wildlife.

“That project is vital for Silicon Valley,” Santos said Friday. “It protects the wastewater treatment plant, Levi’s Stadium, medical facilities, schools, tech companies and the homes of thousands of people. We’re trying to avoid becoming another New Orleans after Katrina. This bothers the hell out of me. I will do everything I can to protect that money.”

Sam Schuchat, executive officer of the California Coastal Conservancy, a state agency based in Oakland that has been working closely on the project with the water district and the Corps, called the possibility of Trump trying to shift the money that Congress approved last year “outrageous.”

“We’ve been working on this since 2002,” he said. “This area is 15 feet below sea level. They had a huge flood in the 1980s. Alviso is probably the most at-risk place along San Francisco Bay for flooding. People die in floods, and property is destroyed.”

Schuchat said that his agency is exploring every option to keep the money, including speeding up the process to sign contracts with construction companies, because once contracts are signed, it becomes much more difficult to take away the funding.

The prospect of diverting funds from flood control projects around the state for a border wall also didn’t sit well with Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress.

“Our office does not have specifics as to what projects might be affected in our district at this time,” said Parker Williams, communications director for Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale. “Congressman LaMalfa has already expressed concern with this idea, and he believes that any move would need careful consideration before acting on it.”

Democrats have refused Trump’s requested $5.7 billion funding for a border wall, a core campaign pledge that they consider a waste. The resulting standoff with the President, who has refused to sign spending bills without it, has left much of the federal government shuttered for what will become a record duration Saturday.

With no sign of compromise in the works despite mounting pressure on both sides to reopen the government, Trump has repeatedly suggested he could declare an emergency at the border and use that authority to divert unspent funds for a border wall, though critics have vowed a legal fight.


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