BOX 2-2
FEDERAL PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES FOR WATER RESOURCES PROJECT PLANNING

The federal document, Economic and Environmental Principles and Guidelines for Water and Related Land Resources Implementation Studies, was issued in 1983 by the federal Water Resources Council (WRC). That document provided a series of steps for the planning of new projects for four federal agencies: the Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Soil Conservation Service (today the Natural Resources Conservation Service), and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The “Principles and Guidelines” (or P&G) document lays out a screening process for new project plans and is used to determine if planning for water project proposals meets a benefit-cost test, and if expected project benefits will exceed costs. The P&G and its predecessor Principles and Standards (P&S) document were designed to consider not just economic benefits but also environmental, social, and other factors.

Since the P&G document was issued in 1983, the national landscape of water project planning has changed markedly. Cost-sharing requirements for federal projects have changed, respective roles of the federal government and local beneficiaries, sponsors, and the number and influence of stakeholders have changed, and the extent of new water project construction has been reduced. Further, the P&G document never was intended to consider and compare multiple water project proposals or existing projects, or to set relative priorities or rankings. These changing circumstances prompted many entities and individuals, including National Research Council committees (e.g., NRC, 2004b) to call for the P&G document to be revised and updated.

In 2007, the U.S. Congress mandated the Army Corps of Engineers to review and update the P&G document. That mission was eventually assumed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The CEQ team issued a draft revision in 2009. More recently, the 111th U.S. Congress, elected in 2010, prohibited the Corps (and effectively the administration) from spending further Fiscal Year 2012 funds to implement the 2007 WRDA congressional instructions to revise the P&G.

The WRDA process is oriented to individual project authorization, with limited considerations regarding how individual projects fit into larger, basin-wide plans or operations.2 This focus on local projects may have been strength-

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2 The U.S. Congress still occasionally mandates basin-wide activities. For example, In P.L. 111-11, Subtitle F (“Secure Water”), Congress in 2009 directed the Secretary of the Interior to assess risks to water supply of each major reclamation river basin, analyze the extent to which changes



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