neering works; it seems virtually certain that in the future the United States will need relatively few major navigation, flood control, or water projects” (NWC, 1973).

Since the 1973 NWC report, there have been few efforts to revive the idea of strong federal water planning and development institutions. Large-scale water resources planning for both the Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps effectively ended in late 1960s. For example, the 1968 Colorado River Basin Project Act authorized both the Central Arizona Project and effectively took large-scale projects, such as interbasin transfers, off the Colorado River Basin water resources agenda. Instead, beginning in 1974, larger-scale river basin development acts (or general mission acts) such as the Flood Control Acts of 1936 and 1944 were replaced with WRDAs that contained many locally focused projects.


Communities and local and state governments with water resources infrastructure needs often engage simultaneously with congressional representatives and the Corps to discuss potential projects. The level of Corps engagement in these preliminary discussions typically entails an advisory role to answer technical questions about potential projects.

Potential projects are initiated with a study authority, typically as part of a WRDA. This authority allows the Corps to determine whether the project warrants federal investment under the benefit-cost criteria established in the 1983 Principles and Guidelines (see Box 2-2). This study then is conveyed to Congress through a Chief of Engineers Report with either favorable or unfavorable recommendations. Results of these evaluations are submitted to the executive office of the Office of Management and Budget, which reviews the Corps evaluations. The OMB applies its own criteria that are consistent with executive branch objectives, including a benefit-cost test, to evaluate projects. Selected projects, reflecting results of the Corps and OMB evaluations (see Box 2-2), then are submitted to the relevant congressional appropriations committees as part of the President’s budget for a given fiscal year. Congress then decides whether to appropriate funds to construct specific projects (for further details on the authorization and appropriation process, see Carter and Hughes, 2010).

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