Feb 27 2014
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) introduced legislation that reestablishes U.S. Army Corps of Engineer practices that allow cooperating partners to collect and reinvest recreation fees.
The Corps of Engineers Cooperative Joint Management Restoration Act restores the earlier practices of the Corps, and uses the fees for operation, maintenance, and management at the recreation site where collected. Without this legislation, the fees are simply a tax.
“When Arkansans visit a Corps park and pay a fee to use a developed site, they expect that the fee is used to maintain and improve the park,” Boozman said. “This legislation will prevent that money from being sent to Washington as a tax. We’re proud that the Arkansas delegation is leading the charge to solve this problem.”
“Our parks are a popular attraction for Arkansas families and visitors, bringing much-needed jobs and funds to our state. It makes no sense to prevent these dollars from being reinvested in our local communities and economy.” Pryor said. “I’m pleased the Arkansas delegation has teamed up to restore this long-standing practice, and ensure that these recreational facilities stay open for decades to come.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this legislation will empower the Corps of Engineers to continue operation at many sites that would otherwise be closed. CBO determined that, over time, this legislation is likely to prevent the closure of facilities that collect up to at least $2.2M each year in recreation fees. In other words, this legislation protects recreation opportunities for Americans across our country.
Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Congressman Tom Cotton (AR-04) and cosponsored by Congressmen Rick Crawford (AR-01), Tim Griffin (AR-02) and Steve Womack (AR-03).
Current Law & Background:
Current law (33 USC §2328) enables the Corps of Engineers to enter into cooperative agreements with non-Federal public and private entities to provide for operation and management of recreation facilities and natural resources at civil works projects. Through cooperative joint management (CJM) agreements, the Corps has formed partnerships with groups ranging from local community-based volunteer organizations (like the Friends of Lake Ouachita) to the National Audubon Society. Until recently, these partnerships helped ensure that Corps recreation facilities were well-maintained and remained open. These agreements also helped ensure that natural resources are conserved and protected.
CJM partnerships have prevented the closure and deterioration of numerous Corps recreation facilities, particularly during budget-constrained times. For many years, the Corps has used its authority in Section 2328 to enter into CJM agreements and leases that allow partners to collect and reinvest recreation user fees. According to the Congressional Budget Office, these arrangements enabled continued operation of many recreation sites that would likely face closure during difficult budget times. Unfortunately, on September 12, 2013, Corps Headquarters released new guidance disallowing this practice. Based on a legal review, the Corps determined that this practice exceeds existing statutory authority by allowing partners to collect user fees and reinvest the proceeds to maintain and improve Corps facilities. The Corps of Engineers Cooperative Joint Management Restoration Act would restore the practice that existed before the September 2013 guidance was issued.