various 216 study panels, as well as important background information for discussion in Chapter 3. This chapter only summarizes the 216 reports and does not reflect additional critique or commentary from this NRC committee.
The following were key findings from the 216 study panel reports:
The value of more thorough analyses and peer review during early stages of Corps planning studies. Recommendations in this area included the occasional need for more resources in Corps reconnaissance studies and the potential value of including stakeholder groups in a planning study’s initial stages.
The need for increased postconstruction evaluations, or ex post studies, of Corps projects. The reports notes that such retrospective assessments are integral to sound water planning in general and to adaptive management in particular.
The need for a greater degree of centralization and streamlining of Corps planning programs and studies. The Corps is highly decentralized, with dozens of district offices spread across the United States. This arrangement may have some limitations with regard to more complex Corps planning studies, and it may inhibit the sharing of information and learning from experience throughout the agency. The reports also observe that Corps planning reports do not always clearly convey key assumptions, methods, costs and benefits, environmental problems and concerns, and conflicts and differences of opinion.
The Corps and other U.S. federal water resources management agencies today rely on a diverse collection of policies, regulations, and case law that constitute the de facto national water policy. Many of these laws have only limited relevance to contemporary water resources needs and in some cases are not fully consistent with more recent laws. This situation occasionally results in confusion (or worse, conflict) between federal agencies. All the study panels discussed these issues, with their recommendations sometimes framed differently. For example, one panel (Analytical Methods) recommended the assignment of interagency coordination responsibilities to a governmental body. Other panels (Adaptive Management, and River Basins and Coastal Systems) called for clarification from the administration and Congress in sorting out inconsistencies within the de facto body of national water policy. The Coordinating Committee recommended a slightly different approach in reconciling these types of inconsistencies, calling for the creation of a process to elevate interagency conflicts to higher authority.
The need to consider implications of study cost sharing (the contribution of a local sponsor to a Corps civil works project). All 216 study panels discussed cost-sharing arrangements for Corps projects, generally noting that increased cost-sharing requirements resulted in a complex mix of positive and negative outcomes. Further investigations into and advice on this topic were beyond the scope and resources of the study panels, but the panels concluded that Congress and the Corps should investigate the full implications of cost-sharing policies.