Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to divert $368 million from California’s high-speed rail project to use for flood relief in the Midwest, according to a report in the Miami Herald.

The newspaper said the California funds are part of a total of $1.5 billion in high-speed rail allocations nationally that the GOP wants to use to shore up levees and on other flood projects. Heavy rains and a deep, late snowmelt have caused weeks of flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and their tributaries.

If House Republicans are successful, the Herald reported, in addition to California’s loss, the Amtrak Northeast corridor would lose $795 million and a Midwestern high-speed rail corridor linking Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis would lose $404 million. A two-house conference committee ultimately will resolve differences on spending issues between the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate.

From the Herald story:

The Transportation Department announced the high-speed rail grants in May, after Florida rejected the money. The checks, though, haven’t yet been sent.

“They’re taking after this because it’s sponsored by the president,” Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., complained Monday.

Construction on California’s planned 800-mile high-speed rail system is scheduled to begin in 2012 in the Central Valley. Loss of the $368 million wouldn’t stop construction but probably would reduce the amount of track now planned.

The California project has been the subject of continuing controversy as a series of government audits and reports criticized it for being badly managed, poorly planned and indifferent to its impact on communities and farmland.

Among the major outstanding issues is finding the money to finish the $43-billion to $65-billion system once construction begins.

The 2008 ballot initiative approved by California voters prohibits using taxpayer money to run the trains after the project is completed.

The state Senate Agriculture and Transportation Committee will hold a joint hearing with the Senate Housing Committee Friday in Merced to address some of the local concerns.


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