“I don’t think they’ve read it,” she told reporters Tuesday.
Stork, whose group supports authorization for a levee project in Sacramento but opposes streamlining, disagreed.
“A lot of people who are pretty darn knowledgeable have read the bill,” he said. “They’re pretty appalled by those provisions.”
Government watchdogs, meanwhile, are upset about the bill’s price tag. Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a fiscal oversight group in Washington, warned that it ultimately would cost taxpayers more than advertised.
“We need to prioritize, and this does nothing to do that,” he said.
Boxer’s bill also looks to prevent a potential disaster from happening in her home state. California’s capital, Sacramento, sits at the confluence of two rivers that drain melting snow from the Sierra Nevada mountains. The city’s levee system would likely fail in a catastrophic storm, possibly putting the safety of hundreds of thousands of people at risk and disrupting commerce and government in the country’s most populous state.
The bill authorizes about $1 billion to repair the levees.
“We have to strengthen the levees there,” Boxer said Tuesday. “We are talking about the need to prevent terrible flooding.”
Sandy and Katrina demonstrated the vulnerability of the country’s aging flood protection system. The American Society of Civil Engineers 2013 Infrastructure Report Card gave dams in the country a “D” and levees a “D-minus.” The Corps of Engineers has a backlog of roughly $60 billion in projects.
Mark Funkhouser, director of the Governing Institute, a state and local policy organization in Washington, said he understood the environmental concerns but also the frustration over the corps’ slowness. Funkhouser was mayor of Kansas City, Mo., from 2007 to 2011, and his city’s aging levees almost failed two decades ago in catastrophic flooding on the Missouri River. Not much has been done to improve them since, he said, and they would need $400 million to fix.
“Those levees are in serious disrepair,” he said. “They’re not like fine wine. They don’t improve, they get worse.”
Funkhouser said he welcomed Boxer’s bill.
“On the whole, I would see this as progress,” he said.