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Bill not dead in the water

redmangroveevergladeUSFWS.jpgUS President Bush has vetoed a bill – the Water Resources Development Act (pdf) – that is overflowing with water projects, from ecological restoration in the everglades to flood protection in Louisiana.

But the US$23 million bill is very likely to be resurrected (according to everyone, from AP, to the New York Times and Baltimore Sun), by an overturn of Bush’s veto – a fun little manoeuvre in which 2/3 of the House and Senate agree to disagree with the President. The overturn is reckoned to be a done deal, and will be the first in the Bush presidency (not least because almost never vetoes things; at least not until the last election, when Democrats took congress). A staffer in the Senate Environment and Public Works committee tells me that the House is likely to do its overturning tomorrow, and that the Senate will likely do their bit later this week.

Some see the WRDA as a package of essential water projects rejected by the president under the cover of “fiscal responsibility” (Detroit Free Press). Others see it as waterborne ‘pork’ — the American term for allocations of money tied to specific projects, usually shepherded into law by politicians from the district where they will be enacted (see the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Bluey)

But what science is there to be found in the swollen-to-bursting legislation?

There are tonnes of small engineering projects for flood-control (The Dallas Morning News bemoans the loss of a project aiming to save Dallas from floods), environmental restoration (Newsday still has hope for Long Island oysters; Florida’s WFTV wonders why the federal government isn’t footing its part of the bill for the Everglades), and navigation. And there are also large numbers of conservation projects to control invasive plants and restore watery environments. There is also a call for research in the bill, with a few small monitoring projects set up. Several of the projects specify that the National Academy of Sciences should peer review them.

Basically, if you are an applied scientist and own a pair of waders, this bill is a good thing for you.

Image: Red Mangroves in the Everglades / USFWS

UPDATE: As predicted, the US Congress has overturned Bush’s veto of this bill on Thursday (see for example Los Angeles Times). Local press were predictably jubilant about the incoming tide of money (Minnesota West Central Tribune, WVLT Knoxville).


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