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Authority & Funding

Water resources projects usually fall into one of four categories depending on their purpose and cost. Congress must approve the study and construction of large-scale, costly projects, such as river diversion and major hurricane protection. Smaller projects, like clearing a bayou for navigation, can sometimes be performed by the Corps under existing laws. Additionally, there are specific programs in place to allow the Corps to perform work on a project for a non-Defense federal agency, state, local government, or Native American tribe or to provide planning assistance to those entities. Regardless of the program that provides for Corps involvement, the work on that project is managed by PPMD.

Specifically Authorized Projects/General Investigations (GI)

Large-scale, complex water resource problems normally require specific authorization from Congress. The six major steps in the planning, design, and implementation of a water resources project are described below.

1. Problem Identified

Local citizens or local government perceive or experience a water resources problem such as flooding, erosion, navigation restriction, etc., that is beyond the capacity of local government to solve.

2. Federal Action Requested

Local government officials contact their congressional representative or senator to request a study authorization. In addition to authorizing the general investigation, Congress must also appropriate funds in order for the investigation to proceed. The authorization and funding process can take 18-36 months.

3. Study and Report Prepared

Once the project is authorized and receives funding, the Corps conducts a general investigation, which is a two-phased planning study. The reconnaissance phase is generally completed in 12 months, and feasibility phase is usually completed in 24-36 months depending on the issue’s complexity. The reconnaissance phase determines whether planning should continue into the feasibility phase, and whether there is non-federal sponsor interest and support for a potential project. It also estimates the time and cost for the feasibility phase. The purpose of the feasibility phase is to explain and evaluate alternative plans and to fully describe a plan to be recommended to Congress for authorization. Feasibility phase investigations must be cost shared equally between the Corps and a non-federal sponsor such as a city, parish, or state agency. The non-federal share may consist of in-kind services instead of cash. The federal and non-federal sponsors sign a Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement that details the responsibilities of each party involved. The feasibility phase concludes with a report, including an environmental impact statement, regarding the Corps’ proposed action.

4. Report Reviewed and Approved

The feasibility report is submitted to USACE Headquarters for review to determine if its recommendations are in accord with current administration policies. After the feasibility phase, detailed design of the recommended project begins. This phase is called preconstruction engineering design and is cost-shared with the non-federal sponsor. It concludes with detailed construction drawings and specifications called "plans and specs."

5. Congressional Authorization

Following a successful review and coordination with the administration’s Office of Management and Budget, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works transmits the report to Congress, which then may consider authorizing the recommended project in the next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). WRDA legislation is typically considered once every two years. The administration may consider including the recommended project in its annual budget request to Congress. Regardless of whether the President requests funding, Congress may consider funding the project through annual appropriations.

6. Project Implemented

Once Congress authorizes and funds the project and "plans and specs" are complete, construction may begin. Before construction, a Project Cooperation Agreement must be signed describing the responsibilities of both parties. When the project is completed, the non-federal sponsor is responsible for maintaining it.

Types of Continuing Authority Program projects

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Authority and Scope
Section 205 of the 1948 Flood Control Act gives the Corps of Engineers authority to develop and construct small flood control projects. A project is adopted for construction only after detailed investigations clearly show the engineering feasibility and economic justification for the improvement. Each project is limited to a federal cost share of not more than $7 million. This federal limitation includes all project-related costs for feasibility studies, detailed planning, engineering, construction, supervision and administration.

Division of Responsibility
A federal flood control project reduces flood damages by means of reservoirs, local protection works, or combinations of both. A flood protection project may consist of one or more of the following: channel enlargement, realignment or paving, removal of obstruction, levee and wall construction, and bank stabilization. The Corps oversees project construction. Maintenance and operation are the responsibility of the local sponsor. The sponsor must also provide all lands, easements, right-of-way, relocations and disposal areas for the project.

Cost Sharing
The sponsor must contribute five percent of the total project cost in cash. If the value of lands, easements, right-of-way, relocations and disposal areas plus the cash contribution do not amount to 35 percent of the project cost, the sponsor must pay the additional funds necessary to make its total contribution 35 percent. Specific requirements will be documented in the Project Cooperation Agreement, which must be executed prior to construction.

Authority and Scope
Section 14 of the 1946 Flood Control Act gives the Corps of Engineers authority to develop and construct emergency stream bank and shoreline protection projects to prevent erosion damages to endangered highways, highway bridge approaches, public and private non-profit schools and hospitals, and other non-profit public facilities. Each project is limited to a federal cost of $1 million.

Cost Sharing
The sponsor must contribute in cash, five percent of the total project cost. If the value of lands, easements, right-of-way, relocations and disposal areas plus the cash contribution do not amount to 35 percent of the project cost, the sponsor must pay the additional funds necessary to make a total 35 percent contribution. Specific requirements will be documented in the Project Cooperation Agreement, which must be executed prior to construction.

Authority and Scope
Section 208 of the 1954 Flood Control Act gives the Corps of Engineers authority to provide flood damage reduction by removing accumulated snags and other debris, and clearing and straightening channels. Each project is limited to a federal cost of not more than $500,000. This federal cost limitation includes all project-related costs for feasibility studies, detailed planning, engineering, construction, supervision and administration.

Cost Sharing
Costs for such projects will be shared the same as for small flood control projects. Specific requirements will be documented in the Project Cooperation Agreement, which must be executed prior to construction.

Authority and Scope
Section 107 of the River and Harbor Act of 1960 provides authority for the Corps of Engineers to develop and construct small navigation projects. The Corps recommends a project for construction after detailed investigation clearly shows its engineering feasibility and economic justification. Each project is limited to a federal cost of not more than $4 million. This federal cost limitation includes all project-related costs for feasibility studies, planning, engineering, construction, supervision and administration.

Division of Responsibility
The federal project can provide only general navigation facilities. These may include a safe entrance channel protected by breakwaters or jetties if needed; anchorage basin; turning basin; and a major access channel leading to the anchorage basin or locally provided berthing area. General navigation facilities are constructed and maintained by the Corps of Engineers. Construction and maintenance of docks, landings, piers, berthing and fleeting areas, boat stalls, slips, mooring facilities, launching ramps, access roads, parking areas, and interior access channels needed for maneuvering into berths, are entirely a local responsibility, provided at non-federal expense. The project sponsor also provides all lands, easements, rights-of-way, relocations, and dredged material disposal areas including dikes, alterations, as well as all servicing facilities, including policing and other services. The project sponsor must also assure availability of a public landing or wharf.

Cost Sharing
The cost-share depends upon the depth of the project. The non-Federal share of the costs of deepening from zero to 20 feet below mean low water (MLW) is ten percent; over 20 feet below MLW to 45 feet below MLW, the non-federal share is 25 percent; and for depths in excess of 45 feet below MLW, the non-federal share is 50 percent. The sponsor must pay an additional 10 percent of the general navigation features costs following the period of construction. This cost may be paid over a 30-year period with interest. The value of lands, easements, rights-of-way, relocations, and disposal areas shall be credited toward this payment. Specific requirements will be documented in the Project Cooperation Agreement, which must be executed prior to construction.

Authority and Scope
Section 103 of the 1962 River and Harbor Act provides authority for the Corps of Engineers to develop and construct projects to protect the shores of publicly owned property by constructing revetments, groins and jetties, to include periodic sand replenishment. Each project is limited to a federal cost of not more than $3 million.

Limitations of Authority
This authority may not be used for recreational purposes. Recreation benefits achieved with the project are considered incidental and may not be included in the economic analysis. Any additional beach fill over that required for the project, to satisfy recreational demand, is a separable recreation feature with all costs assigned to the non-federal sponsor.

Criteria for a Favorable Recommendation
A recommendation to construct a project to protect the shores of publicly owned property may be considered under these conditions:
a. The shore line has been determined to be unstable, and abandoning the public or private property is not the most viable solution.
b. Analysis, based on sound engineering and economic principles, clearly demonstrates the feasibility of the proposed work.

Cost Sharing
All projects must be formulated for hurricane and storm damage reduction with typical cost sharing of 65 percent federal and 35 percent non-federal. Specific requirements will be documented in the Project Cooperation Agreement, which must be executed prior to construction.

Authority and Scope
Section 111 of the 1968 River and Harbor Act provides authority for the Corps of Engineers to develop and construct projects to prevent or mitigate damages caused by federal navigation work. This applies to both publicly and privately owned shores located along the coastal and Great Lakes shorelines. Each project is limited to a federal cost of not more than $5 million.

Limitations of Authority
This authority may not be used to:

a. construct works to prevent or mitigate shore damage caused by riverbank erosion or vessel-generated wave wash
or
b. prevent or mitigate shore damage caused by non-federal navigation projects.

Criteria for a Favorable Recommendation
A recommendation to construct a project to prevent or mitigate shore damage attributable to a federal navigation project can be considered with these conditions:

a. The navigation project is determined to be the cause of the damage, and abandoning the navigation project is not the most viable solution.
b. Analysis, based on sound engineering and economic principles, clearly demonstrates the feasibility of the proposed work.

Requirements for Federal Cost Sharing
If the work recommended is confined to mitigation where erosion is totally caused by the federal navigation works, costs are shared in the same manner as the cost of the project that caused the erosion or shoaling. If the work recommended is a combination of mitigation and restoration of beaches eroded due to other causes, mitigation work will be shared in the same manner as the project causing the erosion or shoaling, and remaining work will be 100 percent local, unless it qualifies as a federal beach erosion control project. Specific requirements will be documented in the Project Cooperation Agreement, which must be executed prior to construction.

Authority and Scope
Section 1135 of the 1986 Water Resources Development Act provides authority to restore degraded ecosystems, if the construction or operation of a Corps of Engineers project contributes to the degradation of the quality of the environment. Measures for restoration through modifications of the structure or operation of the structure can be undertaken. Measures at other locations affected by the construction or operation of the project can also be undertaken if they do not conflict with the authorized project purposes.

Cost Sharing
The sponsor must contribute lands, easements, right-of-way, relocations, and disposal areas required for the restoration project. The sponsor may also perform work-in-kind up to 80 percent of their cost share. If the value of these does not equal 25 percent of the restoration project cost, the sponsor must provide the additional amount necessary so that the sponsor's total contribution equals 25 percent of the project cost. Specific requirements will be documented in the Project Cooperation Agreement, which must be executed prior to construction.

Authority and Scope
Section 204 of the 1992 Water Resources Development Act provides authority for the Corps of Engineers to restore, protect and create aquatic and wetland habitats in connection with construction or maintenance dredging of an authorized project.

Cost Sharing
The sponsor must contribute all lands, easements, rights-of-way, relocations, and disposal areas required for the project. The sponsor must pay any additional amount necessary to equal 25 percent of the project cost in cash. Specific requirements will be documented in the Project Cooperation Agreement, which must be executed prior to construction.

Authority and Scope
Section 206, of the 1996 Water Resources Development Act provides authority for the Corps of Engineers to restore degraded ecosystems. This authority is similar to Section 1135, but a Corps project need not be a contributor to the degradation of the quality of the environment.

Cost Sharing
The sponsor must contribute all lands, easements, right-of-way, relocations, and disposal areas required for the project. If the value of these does not equal 35 percent of the project cost, the sponsor must provide the additional amount in cash or work-in-kind. Specific requirements will be documented in the Project Cooperation Agreement, which must be executed prior to construction.

The Corps can initiate an investigation of a prospective small project when it receives a request from a sponsoring agency fully empowered under state law to provide the required local cooperation. For more specific information about CAP, or for assistance in determining which non-federal authority has jurisdiction over a water resources issue, please contact the Continuing Authorities Program Coordinator: