Hoover Dam bypass funds hit roadblock

A spokesman for Arizona Sen.

Jon Kyl said Kyl has no idea why Hoover Dam bypass funding was not included in counterterrorism bill being considered by Congress.

"Hoover Dam Bypass is a very important national security issue," Matt Latimer, Kyl's spokesman, said Friday in Washington D.C.

"It is a top priority for Sen.

Kyl."

Latimer said Kyl was disappointed that funds to speed construction of the $231 bypass, which will relieve the U.S.

Highway 93 bottleneck at Hoover Dam, was not a priority concern with Congress.

House and Senate negotiators Wednesday tentatively agreed on a $30.4 billion package.

Final approval won't come until next month.

Lawmakers adjourned Friday for a week-long Fourth of July recess.

Latimer said he heard the bill includes funding for projects such as to aid troubled New England fishermen and their communities, and construction of a building for the Smithsonian Institution to house flammable containers of biological specimens.

While Kyl is against "pork spending" on projects that seem frivolous and have nothing to do with homeland security, the senator believed the Hoover Dam bypass project should have been funded, Latimer said.

The geotechnical work, survey, mapping and the study of bridge types is complete and construction of the 1,900-foot-long bridge was to begin this fall.

The entire project, including approximately 3.5 miles of new four-lane highway, was scheduled for completion in 2007.

However, pleas from Nevada and Arizona lawmakers failed to convince President Bush or congressional leaders of the need for additional funding of $108 million to accelerate completion of the bypass, and it was not included in the original $27 billion version of the supplemental appropriation bill Bush sent to Congress, or the version recently passed by the Senate, Latimer said.

AMEC Earth & Environmental operations, the consulting group selected for the bypass project by the Central Federal Lands Highway Division of the Federal Highway Administration, began work in December with laser mapping and visual inspection of the geological conditions, as workers rappelled Black Canyon's walls.

Since than, crews have engaged in drilling and seismic work.

"In the area of home security the Hoover Dam bypass is a critical priority," Brad Christensen, AMEC U.S.

communications manager, said of the project.

"It is deserving of an expedited schedule.

Every year it is delayed makes a difference.

"Everyone is happy that our elected representatives are going to bat for us.

I think everyone is pretty much seeing that there are other projects that had little or nothing to do with home security.

"I'm sure that reason will prevail in Congress," he said.

"The merits of this project speak for itself."

Latimer said Kyl and others will continue lobbying for additional funds for the project.

"This is a very important issue to Senator Kyl," Latimer said.

"He and Sen.

Reid of Nevada are not going to give up on this.

They are going to get this funded.

Maybe not with this bill, but with another, and soon."

Meanwhile, Hoover Dam travel restrictions for some travelers have eased.

The dam was closed for two days after the Sept.

11 terrorist attacks.

Recently, the U.S.

Bureau of Reclamation announced some modifications to commercial vehicle restrictions.

Recreational vehicles, rental trucks, and passenger buses not carrying luggage are now allowed across the dam following inspection.

Also, commercial vehicles traveling to a destination within a 75-mile radius of the dam (formerly 50 miles) may obtain special permits from the U.S.

Bureau of Reclamation to cross the dam.