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WASHINGTON – Plans to scale back the Army Corps of Engineers district office in Buffalo are now in deep trouble thanks to approval in the House of an amendment blocking the move.

The amendment, sponsored by Reps. Brian Higgins and Chris Collins, won bipartisan approval in a voice vote Wednesday. The amendment to the bill that funds the corps for fiscal 2014 will prevent the agency from consolidating or moving any of the functions of the corps districts in Buffalo and Chicago.

While the measure still has to clear the Senate, its bipartisan passage in the House likely dooms any corps consolidation plan that could affect the Buffalo district, since such strongly supported amendments usually survive in any final legislation.

The lawmakers earlier warned that a consolidation could turn the Buffalo district, which serves the territory from Massena to Toledo, Ohio, and employs about 280, into a field office with fewer employees.

Arguing for the amendment on the House floor, Higgins, D-Buffalo, said: “When it comes to protecting the safety, health and future of our waterways, there is no substitute for having a team of qualified people on the ground. Taking key staff out of Western New York will only hinder the delivery of high-impact projects in progress. And any plan to turn the Buffalo or Chicago districts into mere satellite offices is a wrongheaded decision to disinvest in our Great Lakes.”

Collins agreed, saying after the vote: “The plan to move the Buffalo-based personnel out of Western New York is shortsighted, and I am pleased this bipartisan amendment to help prevent that move passed the House. The Army Corps has yet to substantiate the savings it claims this relocation plan will achieve, and common sense tells you that moving key personnel far away from regional project sites could end up costing taxpayers more money.”

email: jzremski@buffnews.com