Search Penny Hill Press

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Army Corps of Engineers Water Resource Authorization, Appropriations and Activites

Nicole T. Carter
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Charles V. Stern
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers undertakes activities to maintain navigable channels, reduce flood and storm damage, and restore aquatic ecosystems. Congress directs the Corps through authorizations, appropriations, and oversight of its studies, construction projects, and other activities. This report summarizes congressional authorization and appropriations processes for the Corps. It also discusses agency activities under general authorities. 

Omnibus Authorization Legislation.
Congress generally authorizes numerous Corps activities and provides policy direction in an omnibus Corps authorization bill, typically called the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The most recent WRDA was enacted in 2007 (P.L. 110- 114). WRDAs historically have been omnibus bills including many provisions for site-specific activities. How to construct a WRDA bill that complied with House rules related to a moratorium on earmarks complicated WRDA consideration in the 112
th Congress. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is set to consider its omnibus Corps authorization and policy bill, H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), in September 2013.

The Senate passed WRDA 2013, S. 601, on May 15, 2013. S. 601 would authorize Corps activities and modifications of existing authorizations that meet certain criteria; the bill includes numerous other provisions as it attempts to address issues with the duration and cost of Corps projects. The bill also would establish new procedures for using Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund monies, in an effort to expand spending above current levels. 

Agency Appropriations.
Federal funding for Corps civil works activities is provided in annual Energy and Water Development appropriations acts or supplemental appropriations acts. Annual Corps civil works appropriations have ranged from $4.5 billion to $5.5 billion in the last decade. An increasing share of the agency’s appropriations is used for operations and maintenance. Another trend has been increasing emergency supplemental appropriations. From 1987 to 2013, Congress appropriated $32.2 billion in Corps supplemental funding. Of this funding, $30.8 billion came through acts passed between 2003 and 2013. This funding was more than half of the Corps’ regular appropriations from 2003 through 2013 ($55 billion). In part because of competition for funds and because Corps authorizations outpace appropriations, many authorized activities have not received appropriations. There is a backlog of more than 1,000 authorized studies and construction projects. In recent years, few new studies and new construction activities have been in either the President’s budget request or enacted appropriations. 

Standard Project Development.
The standard process for a Corps project requires two separate congressional authorizations—one for investigation and one for construction—as well as appropriations. The investigation phase starts with Congress authorizing a study; if it is funded, the Corps conducts an initial reconnaissance study followed by a more detailed feasibility study. Congressional authorization for construction is based on the feasibility study. For most activities, Congress requires a nonfederal sponsor to share some portion of study and construction costs. These cost-sharing requirements vary by the type of project. For many project types (e.g., levees), nonfederal sponsors are responsible for operation and maintenance once construction is complete. 

Other Corps Activities and Authorities.
Although the project development process just described is standard, there are exceptions. Congress has granted the Corps some general authorities to undertake some studies, small projects, technical assistance, and emergency actions such as flood-fighting and repair of damaged levees. Additionally, the Corps conducts emergency response actions directed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Date of Report: September 11, 2013
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: R41243
Price: $29.95

To Order:

R41243.pdf   to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART


Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.