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Environmental Group Wants More Enhancement Funding

Defenders of Wildlife is urging other environmental groups to more aggressively pursue federal funding for transportation enhancement activities authorized


Defenders of Wildlife is urging other environmental groups to more aggressively pursue federal funding for ìtransportation enhancement activitiesî authorized under the federal highway/transit bill (SAFETEA-LU). In a new white paper, the group notes the program has been in place for a decade. ìUnfortunately, this funding opportunity has gone largely unnoticed by wildlife conservation professionals.î If each of the 12 transportation enhancement categories (which include environmental mitigation to address water pollution runoff, acquisition of scenic easements, and pedestrian walkways and bike pathways) received equal portions of available funding, more than $61 million would be allocated annually. However, because so few applications have been submitted, ìwildlife-related projects have only received a total of $11.5 million since 1998,î the report says. Defenders of Wildlife say the report is intended to spur groups to identify candidate projects and pursue enhancement funding.


The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take up energy and water appropriations legislation shortly. The bill includes significant provisions affecting water infrastructure construction as part of the Army Corps of Engineers' budget. The bill will fund Corps construction projects at a $2.07 billion level. Legislators rejected a Bush administration-proposed funding level that would have cut $612 million. Operations and maintenance activities will be funded at $2.3 billion under the bill, a $56 million increase relative to 2008. The legislation also includes a $50 million water reclamation and reuse program under the Bureau of Reclamation, involving construction of facilities to expand the use of recycled water.


Congress temporarily plugged a hole in the aviation funding system, approving a bill extending the Federal Aviation Administration's authority to collect and spend aviation taxes and the agency's contract authority for the Airport Improvement Program, but only until Sept. 30. Legislators will have to face up to the need to find a compromise on a long-term FAA funding bill once the summer is over.


Utah's effort to seek authority to manage federal environmental reviews for ìcategorical exclusionî (CE) projects is backed by transportation groups. The American Road and Transportation Builders Association says the move will streamline delivery of needed transportation improvement projects in the state. Utah's application and public comments on the request are being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Transportation. SAFETEA-LU includes provisions offering states the opportunity to request authority to assume responsibility for certain National Environmental Policy Act review decisions involving CEs, such as road rehabilitation or bridge replacement, in cases where environmental impacts will not rise to the threshold of new construction or significant expansion.


The National Governors Association has released a list of financing options that states should consider to fund roadbuilding. The recommendations were developed at the ìState Summit on Innovative Transportation Funding and Financing.î The options are aimed at generating revenue and addressing congestion. They include: tolling, such as the use of high-occupancy toll lanes; congestion pricing; vehicle-miles-traveled tax, to supplement or replace fuel taxes; debt financing; and public-private partnerships, giving access to new capital and providing the ability to deliver projects more quickly and at lower costs.


Washington Correspondent

Charlotte S. Garvey is a Washington, D.C.-based writer specializing in environmental, natural resources and other public policy issues.