TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn called on Congress Thursday to address its spending priorities before passing a $20 billion water projects bill that would include funds to help buy out properties in the polluted Tar Creek Superfund site.
If the Water Resources Development Act passes, the Republican senator did not specify whether he would back a veto promised this week by President Bush. Among other concerns,
“While I believe passage of a WRDA bill is long overdue and necessary, I am concerned Congress has been unable to figure out a way to deal with the nearly $60 billion backlog of more than 500 (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) projects already authorized and awaiting funding,” Coburn said in a statement.
Coburn said the WRDA would likely pass with “overwhelming support, but sooner or later, Congress must deal with this overwhelming backlog.”
Since the Senate hasn't been presented a final bill to vote on, Coburn is calling for Congress to address the concerns with the water projects bill so the president doesn't have to veto the legislation, spokesman Aaron Cooper said.
“Absent a serious effort to prioritize future spending, we will never be able to fund the new projects in this bill much less the projects previously promised by Congress,” Coburn said.
Inhofe's office said the bill wasn't “perfect,” but that the WRDA, which should be enacted every two years, “is now five years overdue, accounting for much of the size of the bill.” Inhofe also noted the bill has bipartisan support.
In addition to funding other water projects throughout the state, the bill would provide $30 million to assist with relocating homes and businesses in the 40-square-mile Tar Creek Superfund site in northeastern Oklahoma.
Tar Creek has become one of the oldest and largest cleanup sites in the United States after decades of lead and zinc mining.
Last year, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study found more than 100 homes in the town of Picher were in danger of collapsing into old mines, and local children repeatedly have tested high for dangerous levels of lead in their blood.