WRRDA Signed Into Law, Brings New Corps of Engineers Authorization Approach

On June 10, President Barack Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (PL 113-121) into law, paving the way for a new approach to authorizing water resources development projects (as outlined in Section 7001 of new WRRDA law).

The section, “Annual Report to Congress” requires the Secretary of the Army to submit to Congress, and make publicly available, an annual report of those activities that are related to the missions of the Corps of Engineers and require specific authorization by law – new studies, project authorizations, and modifications to existing Corps of Engineers projects.

Under the law, proposals for new project authorizations, studies, and modifications to existing Corps projects would be solicited via an annual notice in the Federal Register requesting proposals from non-federal interests.

This new direction directs the Corps to include specific information about each proposal, including a description of benefits (or expected benefits). This information is meant to help the Congress set priorities regarding which potential studies, projects, and modifications will receive authorizations. The Secretary is expected to make use of information that is readily available and is not expected to begin a detailed and time-consuming analysis for additional information.

Proposals submitted by non-federal interests in response to the Federal Register notice that are not included for potential authorization must be included in an appendix to the annual report. The appendix is intended to provide an additional layer of transparency that will allow Congress to review all non-federal interest submittals to the Corps of Engineers. This will allow Congress to receive a more complete spectrum of potential project studies, authorizations, and modifications. Activities described in the appendix are not subject to authorization from Congress.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon begin to develop Implementation Guidance for this section and the rest of WRRDA based on availability of funding and Administration priorities.