McConnell-Reid Deal Includes $2 Billion Earmark for Kentucky Project
By Phillip M. Bailey
A proposal to end the government shutdown and avoid default orchestrated by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Harry Reid includes a $2 billion earmark for a Kentucky project.
Language in a draft of the McConnell-Reid deal (see page 13, section 123) provided to WFPL News shows a provision that increases funding for the massive Olmsted Dam Lock in Louisville from $775 million to nearly $2. 9 billion.
The dam is considered an important project for the state and region in regards to water traffic along the Ohio River.
As The Courier-Journal's James Bruggers reported in 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they needed about $2.1 billion for the locks due to "stop and go funding."
Asked about the additional funding in the proposal, McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer directed all questions to lawmakers who worked on the bill directly.
"Senators (Diane) Feinstein and (Lamar) Alexander, the chair and ranking member of the energy and water subcommittee, worked on the issue and can help you," he says.
Since 2009, McConnell has been an outspoken supporter of the project, and has been working on getting its funding for some time.
Still, conservative critics of the proposal argue it is nothing more than a "kickback" for McConnell in an age where Tea Parties have eschewed earmarks.
The Olmsted Dam sees nearly 90 billion tons of materials such as coal, petroleum and other goods move through that stretch of the Ohio River annually.
UPDATE 7:30 p.m.:
A statement from Sen. Alexander's office to BuzzFeed says the language was added to prevent funding from being canceled.
"According to the Army Corps of Engineers, 160 million taxpayer dollars will be wasted because of canceled contracts if this language is not included. Sen. [Diane] Feinstein and I, as chairman and ranking member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, requested this provision. It has already been approved this year by the House and Senate."