WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bush administration officials are defending their decision to take no action on an Army Corps of Engineers request for $150 million to buttress security at reservoirs, locks and dams from coast to coast, including one in Minneapolis.
According to data obtained by The Associated Press, the corps wanted the money to make it tougher for terrorists to attack up to 200 water projects the agency operates in 43 states. The decision comes as many Democrats say the administration has shortchanged domestic security spending, and as Congress prepares to begin writing a new multibillion dollar bill aimed at financing such programs.
White House officials said the corps has spent only half the $139 million it received in the last fall's $40 billion anti-terrorism package, which was passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. That leaves enough for the corps for the rest of this fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30, said Amy Call, spokeswoman for the White House budget office.
"They haven't finished their assessment of their long-term vulnerability needs" for next year, Call said.
A corps list describing 14 projects "not currently funded for protection and the projected consequences should a terrorist attack occur" includes:
--The Upper Saint Anthony Falls lock and dam on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, which the corps says helps create a water supply with an annual economic benefit of $32.9 billion;
--The Tuttle Creek dam north of Manhattan, Kan., which the document says could cost more than 13,000 lives if destroyed;
--The Chicago harbor lock, one of the nation's busiest handling 55,000 ships, 900,000 passengers and 225,000 tons of cargo a year.
Another document says the destruction of the aqueduct serving Washington, D.C., "would stop water supply and firefighting to the District of Columbia."
Democrats said the White House decision left unaddressed vulnerabilities.
"I'm sure the folks that live near those potential targets would be very interested to hear why (budget director) Mitch Daniels believes it's unimportant to fully address their communities' security needs," said David Sirota, spokesman for the Democratic staff of the House Appropriations Committee.
Daniels has clashed often with lawmakers of both parties over spending cuts the Bush administration has proposed over its first 16 months in office.
President Bush proposed a new $27.1 billion counterterrorism package for this year last month. The White House and House Republican leaders want Congress to limit the measure to that price tag, but the Democratic-controlled Senate is widely expected to add several billion dollars to it.
In his budget for next year, Bush requested an additional $65 million to hire more guards at water projects.
However, he has sought nothing else to physically enhance security at Corps of Engineers sites, either in the $27 billion package or next year's budget.
Corps spokesman Homer Perkins declined comment.
One corps document obtained by the AP says the $139 million it has already received is "sufficient to begin securing our most critical projects" this fiscal year.
The additional $150 million the corps wanted is to install gates, fences, sensors, stronger doors and windows, cameras, alarms and communications systems, said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
That money could finance improvements at as many as 200 facilities in 43 states, according to corps figures. Excluded would be Alaska, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Nevada, Maine, Utah and Wyoming, whose projects have not been assigned the highest priority.
Other corps projects listed as lacking funds for security include the Old Hickory lock and dam and hydroelectric power plant in Sumner and Davidson counties on the Cumberland River in Tennessee; the Coralville dam in Iowa; and the Lewiston levees on the Snake River in Idaho.
Also, the George C. Andrews lock and dam on the Chattahoochee River in Alabama; the Cochiti dam north of Albuquerque, N.M.; the Isabella dam on Lake Isabella, Calif.; and the Gathright Dam near Covington, Va.
Last month, Mike Parker was fired as chief of the corps' civilian projects after he criticized the administration's planned cuts in its overall budget.
Bush proposed cutting the agency's overall budget by 10 percent next year to $4.2 billion.
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