The White House on Monday released a budget that proposes cuts to several federal coastal programs, including one that has helped put tons of sand on Galveston’s beaches in recent years.
The budget proposes cutting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget by 22 percent, to $4.8 billion for Fiscal Year 2019.
Among the proposed cuts is a reduction in federal funding for the beneficial dredge material for beach building projects, according to corps documents.
The corps is tasked with dredging federal waterways, and in some places uses the material it picks up from channel floors to expand beaches or protect shoreline infrastructure.
While the program’s budget has been as high as $15 million in the past, the budget presented on Monday provides it with only $500,000.
The proposal drew condemnation from coastal advocacy groups, including the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, which tweeted it was disappointed to see major cuts to the beneficial use program.
“We believe high-quality sand that’s not contaminated is a resource, and we should be using it as a resource and not treating it as a waste product to be disposed of as cheaply as possible,” said Derek Brockbank, the association’s executive director.
The budget cuts could affect future building programs in Galveston if they pass.
Last year, the Galveston Park Board of Trustees passed a legislative agenda that called for adequate annual funding for the Continuing Authorities Program, Section 204 — the beneficial section of the Water Resources Development Act that the Trump administration has proposed slashing.
Since 2014, the park board, city, Texas General Land Office and the corps have partnered in various ways to build along Seawall Boulevard and in front of the Dellanera RV Park, off the west end of the seawall.
The largest of the three beach expansion programs since 2014, a $22 million project in an area of the seawall now known as Babe’s Beach, west of 61st Street, was built through participation in the beneficial use program.
Park board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun said the beneficial use program provides valuable savings to cities conducting beach building projects.
“If we had paid for the dredging costs, the project would have cost $22 million, as opposed to $9 million, which represented the cost of redirecting the placement of the sand and mobilizing equipment on the beach to place the sand,” de Schaun said. “The program is valuable because it leverages federal budgets toward local uses without increased costs.”
The Trump budget also proposes cutting $2.8 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency and $200 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, by eliminating programs that fund bacteria monitoring on beaches, environmental education program and climate research, among other things.
The budget includes $2.7 million in annual funding for the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Feasibility Study, which the corps is completing along with the Texas General Land Office. That study is exploring the feasibility of a coastal storm surge barrier, and barring an act of Congress, must be completed before such a project can be funded and built.
The budget still needs to be approved by Congress, which in the past has disregarded White House proposals and continued to send funding to projects the executive branch had proposed to cut.