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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service 5 Supporting Portfolio Planning ENHANCING PLANNING CAPABILITIES AND REPORT QUALITY There is currently a widespread perception, both within and outside the Corps, that the quality and the clarity of Corps planning studies have been declining. Leaders within the Corps acknowledge a need for strengthening the organization’s planning capacities, and many groups call for routine, independent review of Corps planning studies. In making the transition to portfolio planning, the Corps’ planning challenges will be even greater because there will be a need to plan over large areas, to accommodate differing values and interests, and to explicitly incorporate complexities and uncertainties of the interactions of hydrologic processes and human activities. The agency will have to keep abreast of and apply new conceptual and analytical developments to meet these challenges. This chapter discusses ways in which the Corps’ planning capabilities can be strengthened and the quality of its planning studies improved. Focusing Planning Expertise The Corps of Engineers faces personnel and staffing pressures. At the same time, there has been a sharp reduction in its budget for general investigations (planning) in recent years. Nonetheless, the agency can take steps to make better use of available staff. Firstly, the Corps should ensure that its most knowledgeable and competent staff are assigned to its most complex and controversial planning studies. This is currently not always the case as deeply-established tradition calls for Corps of Engineers planning studies to be conducted by district offices. No matter the historical or current advantages this current arrangement confers, portfolio planning will often have to be coordinated and promoted differ-
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service ently. The increasing complexities and interdisciplinary breadth in Corps planning studies, combined with limits in the agency’s budget and its ability to attract and retain highly-qualified personnel, make it impractical for the Corps to employ a full, interdisciplinary suite of experts at every district office. Moreover, personnel needs will differ across studies. Planning for smaller, less expensive projects entails fewer needs than portfolio planning studies that may extend across large, multijurisdictional river basins. One of the 216 studies panels evaluated and commented on review procedures for Corps planning studies (Panel on Peer Review; NRC, 2002b). That panel’s report recommended a process for identifying the agency’s “more costly and controversial” studies. It also recommended creating a group that would track the progress of Corps studies, recommend whether studies should be reviewed by external experts only or whether a review panel should include Corps staff, and help appoint review panels for “internal” reviews (ibid.). That group was referred to as the Administrative Group for Peer Review (AGPR), and this committee supports the establishment of such a group. In addition to its review-related responsibilities, an Administrative Group for Peer Review could identify and assemble Corps study teams to lead the agency’s largest portfolio planning studies, which will likely be the most complex, controversial, and costly. Given that spatial scales of portfolio planning studies are often likely to be large, studies could be executed at a Corps division office(s) and could draw on expertise from across the entire Corps of Engineers, not just a particular division. Technical staff from other agencies could be engaged to supplement Corps staff capabilities. In addition, there would be a need for proactive participation by Corps Headquarters in matters related to study execution to ensure a uniform national approach and to effectively use planning expertise in the agency. The technical planning capacity available to Corps Headquarters may have to be expanded to serve this role. This arrangement would improve report quality and would help circumvent planning delays in Corps district offices that are attributable to uncertainties about planning methods and policies. Creating a means for drawing from Corps personnel across district lines and allowing Corps staff from its centers of expertise, such as the Corps Institute for Water Resources (IWR, in Alexandria, Virginia) and its Waterways Experiment Station (WES, in Vicksburg, Mississippi), would allow the Corps to bring its best minds to bear upon its more complex planning studies. The Chief of Engineers should assign responsibility for their exe-
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service cution of the agency’s more complex and controversial studies to specially-chartered teams that draw upon the best expertise available in the entire agency, rather than rely solely on staff from a given district or division office (Recommendation 4). Resolving Protracted Interagency Disputes The 216 study panels recognized the increasing number and severity of conflicts regarding Corps projects and studies. General policies and guidelines may have some value in resolving disputes, but most often they will be meaningful only when tailored to specific cases. For example, a case-specific determination might be made that a particular project to provide flood protection for subsidized crops is not in the federal interest. Based on that determination for a specific project, a more general policy regarding benefits of agricultural flood control projects in light of federal subsidies could be crafted. The federal government needs a process through which conflicts over planning methods, values, and interests, which cannot be addressed through federal interagency agreements, can be forwarded to the appropriate decision making authorities—the administration and Congress. An existing body should be designated to review and reconcile agency conflicts over Corps activities and over economic and environmental evaluation procedures. Any federal agency with legal authority to comment on a Corps planning study, after making comments and receiving a response, should be able to seek formal review of areas of disagreement. That entity can agree to a review, offer comments without review, or send the issue back without comment for further interagency discussion. Vesting such responsibility in these decision-making bodies is consistent with the spirit of Executive Order 12322 issued by President Reagan (Box 5-1), which requires that the Office of the President, not the Corps, make a final recommendation on all policy and budget matters that must be addressed by Congress. This executive order is less significant for its specific content than for the spirit in which it was issued. That executive order established two principles: First, it is the president’s responsibility to critically and independently review the analyses that are used for plan formulation and evaluation, before proposals are sent to Congress for its deliberations. Second, it is the ultimate responsibility of the Administration and Congress—not federal agencies—to make public policy decisions.
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service BOX 5-1 Reagan Executive Order Executive Order 12322—Water Resources Projects By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, and in order to ensure efficient and coordinated planning and review of water resources programs and projects, it is hereby ordered as follows: Section 1. Before any agency or officer thereof submits to the Congress, or to any committee or member thereof, for approval, appropriations, or legislative action any report, proposal, or plan relating to a Federal or Federally assisted water and related land resources project or program, such report, proposal, or plan shall be submitted to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Section 2. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall examine each report, proposal, or plan for consistency with, and shall advise the agency of the relationship of the project to, the following: the policy and programs of the President; the Economic and Environmental Principles and Guidelines for Water and Related Land Resources Implementation Studies or other such planning guidelines for water and related land resources planning, as shall hereafter be issued; and other applicable laws, regulations, and requirements relevant to the planning process. [Section 2 amended by Executive Order 12608 of Sept. 9, 1987, 52 FR 34617, 3 CFR, 1987 Comp., p. 245] Section 3. When such report, proposal, or plan is thereafter submitted to the Congress, or to any committee or member thereof, it shall include a statement of the advice received from the Office of Management and Budget. Section 4. Executive Order No. 12113, as amended, is revoked. SOURCE: The provisions of Executive Order 12322 of Sept. 17, 1981, appear at 46 FR 46561, 3 CFR, 1981 Comp., p. 178, unless otherwise noted. A process for reviewing and resolving conflicts that cannot be resolved through planning methods or federal interagency agreements, and that elevates conflicts over applications of economic and environmental evaluation procedures and other water management ac-
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service tivities, should be created within an existing governmental body (Recommendation 5). Setting Planning Priorities through Regional Assessments In an era of limited resources, it is essential that the Corps budget be directed to the highest national water management priorities. Managers of the Corps’ portfolio planning program would thus benefit from a continuing assessment of the water resources demands and conditions in the nation’s watersheds as they establish study priorities. Interest in such a national assessment process is evidenced by the 2002 congressional request to the U.S. Geological Survey for a report on the design and execution of a continuing national water assessment (USGS, 2002) and by the Department of the Interior’s Water 2025 Program (http://www.doi.gov/water2025; accessed September 29, 2003). Nonetheless, there is no national (federal-state) cooperative program that periodically reviews water issues that may warrant national attention and that could serve as a means for setting priorities within portfolio planning. One possibility would be for the Corps to focus periodically on a different region of the country and/or an issue of concern, and report to the Congress on emerging water problems and opportunities. Another example would be for the Corps to conduct interregional comparisons. A third example could include studies of select interstate basins as longitudinal case studies with ex post evaluations of cumulative impacts. These types of reports could be used to help direct portfolio planning and to highlight other water problems and opportunities that may fall outside the agency’s primary mission areas. To effectively execute this task, representatives from other federal agencies with water resources management responsibilities should be engaged. In addition, representatives from the states in the region being reviewed should be included. These regional assessments should highlight all water and related land resources management issues in the region deemed worthy of national attention. A program of continuing regional assessments can serve as the basis for setting portfolio planning program priorities. These regional assessments, which could include comparisons of water issues between regions and longitudinal studies in select regions, should be periodically conducted in order to help identify key water resources issues of federal-level importance (Recommendation 6).
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service Staff Capacity A typical Corps of Engineers planning study contains hundreds of pages and includes extensive data and results from complex economic and ecologic models. The conduct of credible and transparent planning studies in this setting requires competent, well-educated professionals. The Corps is experiencing challenges in maintaining this skilled capacity because of conditions that affect most federal agencies: better pay and better working conditions in the private sector, bureaucratic red tape and often excessive procedural requirements, and a general decline in the status of and respect for federal employees. Leaders within the Corps recognize a need to improve internal planning capability (USACE, 2002). These leaders have also acknowledged the value of independent review, stating that they want models and analytical methods used in Corps planning studies to be able to withstand the scrutiny of external experts. This is a reasonable and commendable aim. To achieve it, the Corps should be staffed and directed by credentialed, competent individuals. As this task demands competence in a broad spectrum of fields including engineering, ecology, and social science disciplines, the Corps should possess some of the expertise from across this interdisciplinary spectrum. Finally, the public expects and deserves to have first-rank civil servants to ensure the highest level of quality in Corps planning studies. One solution commonly proposed to ensure adequate technical skills is to transfer some of the agency’s planning and analytical responsibilities to the private sector; in fact, there have been some proposals to “privatize” many of the Corps’ water-related functions, and some of these proposals may have merit. Not all technical analyses in Corps planning studies must necessarily be conducted exclusively by Corps staff. There is a trend in the private sector (and to a lesser degree in the public sector) to seek talent for individual projects through recruiting experts and consultants from the private sector for a given period or contract (so-called “outsourcing”). The Corps is no different, and there will be increased reliance on technical specialists from outside the Corps, either as contractors or as advisors, to ensure that model assumptions are credible, that data sets are adequate, and that models represent the state of the practice. Shifting analytical tasks to the private sector, however, has its limits, as core, “in-house” competence is necessary for the Corps to commission, manage, and comprehend the advice of external experts. Moreover, effective use of the results of independent, expert review requires skilled staff in adequate numbers who not only understand the ad-
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service vice, but can tailor it to Corps regulations, budgetary realities, and local conditions. The possibility of enhancing staff capabilities also should be considered in the context of the Corps’ decentralized structure, a decentralization that has been advanced by recent reorganization (see http://www.hq.usace.army.mil/stakeholders/Final.htm; accessed March 5, 2004). Maintaining a core of in-house personnel at each of the Corps’ 41 district offices, with the expertise to cover all dimensions of Corps planning studies, is impractical. Even under the most optimistic circumstances, full replacement of the planning capacity that was once dispersed throughout the district offices and at Corps Headquarters should not be expected. Indeed, maintaining staff capability is a problem that affects agencies beyond the Corps. This study did not include a detailed investigation regarding claims that the Corps has difficulty attracting and retaining talented personnel. Other bodies, however, have investigated the phenomenon of a dwindling pool of personnel in the middle to upper levels of the federal government, which will soon be needed to replace retiring senior staff. Box 5-2 summarizes the 2003 report from the National Commission on Public Service. The commission’s chairman, former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker, stated the following in his preface: “Too many of our most competent career executives and judges are retiring or leaving early. Too few of our most talented citizens are seeking careers in government or accepting political or judicial appointments” (NCPS, 2003). Few would deny that the Corps’ ability to recruit and retain competent personnel is an important issue. Many of these types of personnel issues, however, transcend the Corps and must be addressed by Congress and the administration. In the meantime, it would be useful for the Corps to provide greater specificity regarding its current and future personnel needs. That is, many Corps staff have noted that the agency must have talented people to conduct credible planning studies and related investigations. Although one could scarcely argue with this, such assertions do not provide specifics on the skills and experiences that Corps staff should possess. Questions in this realm could include: Should the agency recruit more economists with advanced degrees? Does the Corps need more systems engineers? Should its engineers possess more advanced degrees and broader course work? Should the Corps hire more interdisciplinary specialists, such as policy analysts? Does it have enough ecological scientists? Does it need more in-house expertise in facilitation and conflict resolution skills? Although higher authority will be required to address fundamental personnel problems that stretch across much of the federal
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service BOX 5-2 The Report of the National Commission on the Public Service This 2003 report was authored by a select panel charged to review the organization, leadership, and operations within the federal government. The group was chaired by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. The commission was a project of the Brookings Institution Center for Public Service and was sponsored by a grant from the Dillon Fund. Many of the report’s recommendations, although aimed at the entire federal government, have direct implications for the Corps of Engineers. As an example, the report provided the following commentary on staffing issues within federal agencies that strongly applies to hiring and retention issues within the Corps: Within the next five years, more than half the senior managers of the federal government will be eligible to retire. Not all will, but the best estimates are that by the end of this decade, the federal government will have suffered one of the greatest drains of experienced personnel in history. That would be less worrisome if there were evidence that the middle ranks of government contained ready replacements and the entry levels were filling with people full of promise for the future. But the evidence, in fact, points in the opposite direction. Far too many talented public servants are abandoning the middle levels of government, and too many of the best recruits are rethinking their commitment, either because they are fed up with the constraints of outmoded personnel systems and unmet expectations for advancement or simply lured away by the substantial difference between public and private sector salaries in many areas. Some employees leave federal service because they can no longer tolerate the dismal facilities and working conditions in many agencies. Drab and tiny workspaces, inadequate room for storage and record-keeping, and aging lighting, heating, and air conditioning systems—too common in the federal government—seem to many employees emblematic of the low value in which they are held. The invasions of personal privacy resulting from financial reporting, background investigations, and public scrutiny in general also take a toll on morale. Increasingly, federal workers have real cause to be concerned about their personal safety. Too often, as well, federal employees depart before their time in frustration over the strangling organizational and procedural complexity of contemporary government decisionmaking. For too many, even their best efforts to be responsive and creative end up in organizational oblivion. SOURCE: NCPS (2003).
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service government, more specific requests for Corps personnel would provide Congress with a clearer picture of the agency’s needs. The Secretary of the Army should report within one year to Congress on projected professional staffing, skill, and related budgetary needs for implementing portfolio planning (Recommendation 7). A NEW SETTING FOR DECISION MAKING Characterizing Water Resources Management Conflicts The desire to resolve technical disputes is one reason Congress requested The National Academies to report on how an independent review process could be implemented for costly and controversial Corps projects (NRC, 2002b). Indeed, even without independent review, the Corps today has many technical experts looking over its shoulder and subjecting its analysis to critical comment. In turn, external critiques, and the agency’s efforts in responding to such comments, usually add time and cost to studies. The confidence in and transparency of the analysis done by the Corps should therefore be renewed and fortified. There are, however, reasons beyond technical credibility that warrant a more transparent planning process. In recent years there has been a diffusion of decision authority away from the Corps to other agencies (e.g., pursuant to the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries). Multiple stakeholders have been empowered by these and other laws, and the sharing of decision making with these stakeholder groups is becoming increasingly frequent. Also, many of these environmental laws either explicitly or indirectly endorse some degree of hydrologic restoration. Given the Corps’ history of building hydrologic control projects, some might question a Corps analysis that dismisses hydrologic restoration and nonstructural measures as unjustified. An open planning process can address such skepticism. In a setting of shared decision making, real and threatened vetoes of proposed actions abound, making compromise difficult to achieve. If a new portfolio planning agenda is to be successfully executed, conflicts must be managed, even if they cannot be eliminated, so that actions that best serve the nation’s economy and environment can be identified and implemented. In order to make recommendations on how to manage conflict, it is first
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service necessary to characterize its sources. In discussing conflict within the context of Corps projects and decision, it is useful to categorize the sources of contemporary conflicts. William Lord (1979) defined three types of conflicts about water management: “value,” interest,” and “cognitive” conflict. An additional source of conflict may derive from a diffusion of decision-making power and influence, which can be labeled as “authority conflict.” This chapter’s remaining recommendations are framed to address these four sources of conflict. Value conflict stems from different assessments of the desirable goals of public action and is therefore ideological in nature. For example, water resources management decisions may result in conflict over the desirability of increased control of the hydrologic regime versus returning a river system to a more “natural” state. Stakeholders may thus agree on the physical and biological impact of certain actions, but disagree about the acceptability of this impact. For example, value conflicts may be at the source of the inability to reach agreement on Missouri River operation rules (Box 4-2). Although resolution of value conflicts may be facilitated by intergroup communication, value conflicts are typically resolved with one view prevailing over the other. In the end, portfolio planning may entail a need to choose among conflicting values. This should be the responsibility of the administration and Congress, not the responsibility of federal agencies such as the Corps. A properly structured portfolio planning process, however, should help articulate these value-based choices and facilitate discussion regarding trade-offs. Interest conflict arises when a decision will have different effects on different groups, and the affected groups voice their support or opposition to a proposed decision. In portfolio planning, interest conflict may arise, for example, because a current benefit stream is threatened by interests in ecosystem restoration. Many stakeholders see a need for environmental mitigation when watersheds are altered toward more control, but do not see a similar need for economic mitigation when water controls are relaxed in the name of restoration. Further, some see hydrologic restoration activities coming at the expense of projects that they believe serve a compelling national interest in promoting economic and social well-being through traditional flood risk reduction and navigation objectives. Resolution of interest conflict will occur either through bargaining and compensation of those harmed, or through the exercise of power of one stakeholder over another. Environmental mitigation requirements are a form of compensation. Economic mitigation could also be a form of compensation if a portfolio planning decision favoring hydrologic res-
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service toration results in a loss of existing benefits, although the need for economic mitigation may be debated. Cognitive conflict arises over the data, analyses, and models used in the planning process. For example, groups may have different perceptions of the effects of increased water withdrawals on lake levels or of the legality of water withdrawals. In general, cognitive conflicts are resolved when agreement is reached on the models and data used for analysis, and when details of the analysis are open to inspection. If technical analysts have differences of opinion (a common occurrence given the incomplete understanding of the interplay between numerous watershed ecological processes), multiple models and analyses may be required, and uncertainties may have to be explicitly presented to decision makers (NRC, 2001). Technical expertise, however, is not monolithic. There has been a rapid expansion of the disciplines, models, and analytical approaches of what might broadly be termed “environmental sciences,” where once only engineers were looked to as experts. The fragmentation and diffusion of expertise is also occurring within disciplines. For example, there is a subdiscipline of wetlands science that holds its own professional meetings and has its own peer-reviewed journal. As the numbers of sub-disciplines has grown, so has the number of experts, as have differences among experts within and between disciplines. Nonetheless, it is more likely that agreement can be reached on cognitive conflicts than value or interest conflicts. The Corps can thus no longer (relative to past years) make a claim of having the most or the best technical experts. Even as the understanding of complex systems advances, competing claims of expertise are made, experts are diffused among increasingly fractured disciplinary programs, and more disciplines are claiming a voice in discussions on scientific matters. The portfolio planning process must accommodate this reality. Authority conflict results from a post-1970 diffusion of powers created by the form and number of laws passed in that period (e.g., Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act) for making water and related land resources decisions. Citizens in coalitions with often different perspectives may claim to represent the “public interest” versus “special interests.” There has been an irreversible diffusion of power and technical abilities among agencies and the public, accompanied by some degree of mistrust of Corps planning studies and their conclusions. This diffusion of power and expertise, coupled with an erosion of trust in Corps analyses, has paralleled an erosion of the Corps’ internal planning capability, making it necessary to revisit how the agency plans and makes decisions.
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service STREAMLINING WATER RESOURCES DECISION MAKING Computer-Aided Decision Making Incorporating affected groups and individuals into a planning process (e.g., through formation of citizen or agency advisory committees) is becoming a more common means of addressing national water resources conflicts. Assembling all affected interests may aid in identifying and reconciling some sources of conflict. It also presents an opportunity to use computer simulation methods to enhance these deliberations. Mathematical (computer-based) simulation models can characterize and forecast the effects of different alternatives on fish and wildlife populations, the economy, or the income of a given group. These models, however, are only abstractions of complex systems, and approximations of some relationships are thus necessary in their construction. Model results are therefore likely to be sensitive to model-building judgments. Decision makers must have confidence in the soundness of a model’s assumptions, relationships, and forecast outcomes. Agreement on these features will be necessary if they are to help forge consensus on complex planning issues among multiple stakeholders. Computer simulation models that are built, reviewed, and tested collaboratively with all stakeholders can be a foundation for such an effort. The Corps has been at the forefront of developing and using computer simulation as an assistant to collaborative decision making, and the agency uses the phrase “Shared Vision Modeling” to describe its initiatives in this realm. More generally, integrating simulation models with collaborative discussions might be termed “computer-aided decision making.” In this process, models and data are used to help stakeholders ask “what-if” questions of the models they helped to construct. This capacity can assist in reaching agreement in two ways. One is to test the sensitivity of model results to input data or other factors that might be in dispute. Given scientific uncertainties and room for different views, the ability to view the broad results of what-if simulations, under different sets of assumptions, may help participants agree on some planning objectives, alternatives that might be formulated, and how different alternatives might affect their social and economic interests. A second means by which what-if modeling can encourage agreement is to allow rapid assessment of trade-offs by letting stakeholders “experiment” with different alternatives, see the consequences immediately, and search for bases of agreement to discover and discuss trade-offs. Several challenges attend the use of computer-aided decision mak-
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service ing, however, which are not unique to this approach. First, if decision making is to be truly collaborative, decisions must be made in a process that engages and draws on the expertise of federal and state agencies, as well as stakeholders with different perspectives (other 216 panels made similar observations regarding stakeholder collaboration). Second, computer-aided decision making will not resolve differences among agencies and other stakeholders if they are unwilling to negotiate in the absence of computer-assisted approaches. Third, stakeholders must agree to be part of the computer-aided decision making process and to abide by its outcomes if they are satisfied that the process has provided an equitable and technically-credible consideration of alternatives. The Corps has applied its Shared Vision Modeling decision support approach and has applied it to good effect in some instances. This type of decision support system holds promise in promoting discussion among stakeholders, highlighting areas of technical agreement and unknowns, explaining probabilities of outcomes, and framing questions for further investigation. This type of approach is not likely to resolve all water resources conflicts. In settings of sharp and protracted water resources conflicts (in several of which the Corps is currently embroiled) however, the use of decision support approaches such as Shared Vision Modeling is merited. Only a few Corps staff members have knowledge of and experience in applying the Shared Vision Modeling package, and it has not been applied in prominent water resources controversies, such as those that currently exist on the Missouri and Upper Mississippi Rivers, for example. Computer-aided decision making is a promising approach to helping clarify and resolve conflicts over water management priorities. A “community of practice” in computer-aided decision making that facilitates discussions between Corps staff and outside experts should be established (Recommendation 8). Chief’s Report The end product of a Corps planning study is a report that contributes to a political determination of which values and interests are to be served. For the Corps’ costly and controversial activities, however, results from technical analysis alone will rarely offer a compelling resolution of value- and interest-based differences. Because the resolution of differences in values and interests often transcends the ability of technical analysis to do so, the appropriate role of planning reports in water
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service project decision making should not necessarily be to identify the best decisions. This is especially true when many of the authorities that will be required to execute a preferred alternative reside with state and local governments and other federal agencies. Corps planning studies should identify a range of alternatives and their respective assumptions, uncertainties, consequences, strengths and weaknesses, and benefits and costs—an evaluation that may not necessarily suggest clearly a preferred alternative. For more traditional planning studies that address smaller-scale (in terms of area, costs, and conflicts) problems, the Chief’s Report is an appropriate means of recommending a preferred alternative. However, for a larger, more expensive, and more controversial portfolio planning efforts, responsibility for selecting preferred alternative actions over time should ultimately rest with elected leaders, especially when policy dimensions involved outweigh technical concerns (portfolio planning processes may at times extend over many years and would thus benefit from the application of adaptive management principles as discussed in the report from the 216 panel on adaptive management, and those identified in the professional literature (Anderson et al., 1999; Gunderson, 2002; Lee, 1999)). Accordingly, the selection of a preferred alternative will rest with the administration, Congress, and the states. In these instances, it may be appropriate for the Chief of Engineers, as a line agency, to provide technical information regarding alternatives, but not attempt to reconcile fundamental value and interest conflicts. Portfolio planning may result in disagreements among agencies, levels of government, and stakeholders, which are appropriately resolved by the president and the Congress. In such cases, a Chief’s Report should include a full reporting of alternatives that were not recommended, relevant supporting analyses, and a clear explanation for the recommendation made the most controversial decisions. In addition, a recommendation of a preferred plan by the Chief of Engineers should not be compulsory (Recommendation 9). Reconnaissance Studies and Study Cost Sharing Reconnaissance Studies Portfolio planning can extend over several years and will often consider multiple projects and activities across large watersheds and river basins. Portfolio planning thus does not fit neatly into the reconnais-
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service sance and feasibility report hierarchy used by the Corps; different study budgeting and cost-sharing arrangements may have to be considered. The Corps presently conducts its planning studies in two phases: an initial reconnaissance phase, followed by a project feasibility phase. Reconnaissance studies are currently limited to a cost of no more than $100,000, are not cost-shared, and are to be completed within one year. These limits may be well suited for smaller, single-purpose studies and may be useful in minimizing costs and ensuring that planning studies progress with due speed (the report of the 216 panel on methods of analysis and project planning also notes the current limitations of reconnaissance studies). The Corps, however, should focus some of its planning on large systems, make planning a continuous process over extended periods, and involve multiple stakeholders. Under current arrangements, superficial assessment during study reconnaissance may preclude the consideration of viable alternatives during the feasibility study phase. This may ultimately contribute to cost increases and to continuing stakeholder conflict during and after the feasibility study. A portfolio planning process should be a thoughtful, comprehensive, and continuing study process to reach agreement on problems and opportunities, definitions, data and modeling approaches that will be used, and the range of alternatives that will be studied. Sound reconnaissance studies for these latter types of complex systems simply cannot be accomplished within the $100,000 and one year limits. The Secretary of the Army should review reconnaissance study cost limitations and should report to the Congress with a proposal to match study time and costs to the scale and complexity of the water resources issues at hand. Congress, in authorizing a portfolio planning authority, should consider whether reconnaissance study cost limitations should apply and whether the distinction between reconnaissance and feasibility study stages should be reconsidered and possibly eliminated. Study Cost-Sharing There is a long history of employing cost sharing arrangements (in which a local sponsor provides partial funding) in Corps planning studies and projects. Despite positive effects of study cost sharing (e.g., the imposition of some discipline on the demand for planning studies), the same cost-sharing arrangements have apparently directed the Corps away from a responsibility to consider problems and opportunities that extend
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service beyond the interests of the study cost-share partner. Anecdotal evidence exists to support this assertion, but conclusive evidence is not at hand. Concerns regarding study cost-sharing, however, if documented, would warrant changes to ensure that the broader planning perspectives expected with the new portfolio planning authority are not undercut by the disincentives of study cost-sharing (most of the 216 study panels identified and considered similar issues related to cost-sharing). Portfolio planning will be most effectively and appropriately conducted over large spatial scales and over extended periods of time. Current reconnaissance study and study cost share guidelines, however, may inhibit studies with these more comprehensive perspectives. A review of the applicability of reconnaissance study cost limitations, the distinction between the reconnaissance and feasibility study stages, and modification of study cost sharing requirements, should thus be undertaken, with subsequent adjustments made to advance portfolio planning (Recommendation 10). Backlog of Authorized, Unfunded Projects Debates about funding individual “backlogged” projects—those projects that have been authorized, but which have not yet been appropriated resources—may diminish opportunities for the Corps and the nation to benefit from portfolio planning. Today, there are widespread disputes regarding the current and future values of projects that were authorized many years, sometimes decades, ago. For example, projects that raised opposition by the “Corps Reform” caucus were often authorized many years ago. There is a need for a process to review and rank funding priorities for projects in this backlog (this process could be informed by planning done under the new study authority called for in this report). One option is that Congress, in cooperation with the administration, appoint a panel to evaluate and prioritize the projects in the backlog. Such a panel could also suggest candidate projects for deauthorization. That panel’s recommendations might be reported openly, although neither Congress nor the administration would be bound by its recommendations. As the portfolio planning program matures, and as the regional assessment process conducts its work, it is likely that new work might be authorized and that priorities would have to be reordered. The panel could be reconvened periodically. The presence of “backlogged” Corps projects—those that have received congressional authorization but have not yet received finan-
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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Planning: A New Opportunity for Service cial appropriations—could limit the utility of portfolio planning. When assessing potential new projects and alternative operations of existing projects, this backlog can confuse the setting of priorities that will derive from execution of the new study authority. Congress should develop a process for inventorying and ranking the funding priority of authorized, but unfunded, Corps projects that constitute the current project backlog, which can both inform and benefit from portfolio planning (Recommendation 11).
Representative terms from entire chapter: