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Rep. Simpson’s Latest Community Project Funding Op-Ed

Getting the Goods for Gooding

WASHINGTON— Today, Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson wrote an op-ed highlighting the importance of Community Project Funding and its role in providing critical support for Idaho’s Second Congressional District. One such priority is replacing the existing rock walls that line the Little Wood River in Gooding, Idaho.

Getting the Goods for Gooding 

By Rep. Mike Simpson

The full op-ed is available below. 

As a long-time advocate of Idaho’s priorities, I unapologetic support congressionally-directed funding.  Over the years, this has put me at odds with those in the media and Congress who use the idea of banning earmarks as a convenient soundbite, poking fun at projects out of context to score cheap political points.  I believe this is unfair to Idahoans and Idaho communities, and it ignores the fact that Congress, not the executive branch, has constitutional responsibility over the federal budget process.  Idaho rarely benefits when we hand all the decisions about how to allocate the federal budget to the administration.  Through the Community Project Funding (CPF) program, I can advocate for Idaho projects that would otherwise get overlooked by federal agencies or caught up in bureaucratic red tape, allowing me to bring Idaho tax dollars back home for Idaho priorities. 

The Gooding Wall is a perfect example of why this process is important to Idaho.  The existing rock walls that line the Little Wood River as it flows through Gooding, Idaho, have long needed replaced.  The Gooding Canal was completed in 1941 to both provide irrigation water and protect the community from flooding, but aging infrastructure and repeated high water and ice jam events along the canal have caused severe deterioration of the existing lava rock walls.  Today large portions of these walls are failing and have fallen into the channel, putting the community at higher risk of flooding.   

I have been working with the City of Gooding to repair the dilapidated canal walls since coming to Congress.  Several decades ago, the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) completed the studies needed to get the project started, but they lacked the authorization and funding to move it forward.  In 2007 I included language in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) to authorize the Corps of Engineers to put this project on their priority list.  Appropriating the funding needed to get the project started should have been the next step in the process, but when earmarks were banned in 2010, I was left without an opportunity to request it.  The momentum that had finally started screeched to a halt.  The Corps put this important flood mitigation project back on the shelf, where it remained for over a decade. 

As inflation and construction costs skyrocketed over the next ten years, the cost of the project began to exceed the amount that had been authorized in 2007.  This forced the city to scale back the project by cutting out bridge replacements that were part of the original project—work that was crucial to mitigating flood risks but that would now fall to the City of Gooding to fund alone—and still the project languished on the Corps’ back burner. 

This project is critical to an Idaho community, but it has become abundantly clear that the Corps can’t or won’t take it up on their own and that getting it finally finished requires congressional action.  Last year, I put language in the WRDA bill to raise the authorized project cost limit so that the needed bridge replacements can again be included.  I also used the CPF program to direct funding to get this important flood control project started again. This year, I have requested the funding needed to complete the federal portion of the project.  I am grateful that the Idaho Water Resources Board has just stepped up to complete the local portion of the project with an aging infrastructure grant to the City of Gooding. 

After decades of working on this issue, it is gratifying to see this important flood control project finally underway.  Without congressionally-directed funding, this project would still be tangled up in the bureaucratic process.  The Gooding Wall project is good news for Idaho and a long-awaited victory for the community of Gooding.  We hear a lot of false claims suggesting member-directed spending is wasteful and irresponsible, but when we look past the soundbites, what we see are projects like the Gooding Wall, which meet stringent transparency and accountability standards and make an enormous positive difference in the lives of Idahoans.  I consider it my responsibility to make sure that this and other vitally important projects in the State of Idaho are given due consideration within a responsible budget process.  I will always choose to bring Idaho tax dollars home to Idaho over sending them to a federal bureaucracy to spend at its determination.  Fighting for Idaho priorities is always a win in my books.