Projects specifically authorized by Congress allow the Corps of Engineers to provide support for a variety of water resources related issues. These projects differ in two ways from other program authorities. First, to initiate a study, the Corps of Engineers requires specific Congressional authorization to address issues within a specified area. Second, the study scope can include one or more different Corps of Engineers mission areas and the total study cost is not limited.
After receiving authority from Congress through a Resolution, the Corps of Engineers can initiate a study within the specified river basin, watershed, or navigation area. The Corps is initially funded with up to $100,000 to draft and submit a reconnaissance level report to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Civil Works (ASA[CW]). The reconnaissance report will identify potential problems and opportunities, the feasibility of implementing a project, and identify the Corps of Engineers mission area(s) the project may fall under. The result of the phase is a determination regarding the potential federal interest in the project and, if appropriate, an approval to move into the feasibility phase from the ASA(CW).
During the feasibility phase, the Corps conducts an in-depth analysis of the project area and further defines the existing and future conditions to be evaluated. An economic and environmental analysis is completed demonstrating potential benefits and impacts as a result of implementing a project. During this phase extensive review and analysis is performed to ensure that the best project(s) are being pursued. A range of alternatives are often considered and may result in federal and local plans. The feasibility report is the final deliverable prepared at the end of the phase and is a decision document that includes a 35 percent design of the recommended plan(s) for implementation and an environmental impacts analysis, typically in the form of an environmental impact statement. The report and its findings are reviewed by the ASA(CW) and, if approved, recommended to Congress for approval in the form of a Chief of Engineers’ Report. At this point, any further design or analysis requires Congressional action and approval typically through a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill.
The feasibility phase is cost-shared 50/50 with the local sponsor and can include cash contributions, work in-kind, or a combination of both. This phase typically last several years and varies in cost and size depending on the type and complexity of the project.
Pre-Construction Engineering and Design Phase:
Following the feasibility phase and authorization from Congress through legislation, a project recommended for implementation may enter the Pre-Construction Engineering and Design (PED) phase. During PED, design of the Congressionally authorized project is advanced from 35 to 100 percent design, including the full set of plans and specifications. The project again will go through an extensive review process depending on the type and complexity of the project.
The PED phase cost-share is 75 percent federal and 25 percent non-federal. Though ultimately, the cost-share of the PED phase is subject to the cost-share percentages of the construction phase. Construction cost-share is dependent on the type of project to be built. For example, a flood risk management project is 65 percent federal and 35 percent non-federal. Differences in cost-share from the PED phase are reconciled during construction and the project sponsor may be responsible for additional costs beyond the 25 percent initially required to complete the phase in order to maintain the appropriate match.
Following completion of 100 percent design and the plans and specifications, the project is ready to move forward with construction. A Project Partnership Agreement (PPA) must be executed between the Corps of Engineers and the project sponsor. It is not uncommon for the project sponsor to change from phase to phase depending on the local interest and real estate property needs. The PPA outlines all of the terms and conditions of construction of the project including but not limited to cost-share ratios, contracting actions, and construction supervision. Prior to construction, the local sponsor(s) of the project must also provide all lands, easements, rights-of-ways, relocations, and disposal areas (LERRD) necessary to begin and complete the project. The cost of LERRD incurred by the sponsor is applied to the sponsor’s cost-share requirement and may reduce but not eliminate the total cash requirements needed to execution. Dependent on the availability of federal funding, the construction phase could initiate immediately following completion of the PED phase.
The cost-share for construction varies from project to project based on the Corps of Engineers mission area it falls under.
Operations, Maintenance, Repair, Replacement, and Rehabilitation (OMRR&R):
After a project is completed, the Corps of Engineers turns over all operations and maintenance of the project to the local sponsor(s). The costs of any required OMRR&R are 100 percent non-federal costs once construction is completed with the exception of projects that fall under the mission of harbors and inland navigation. Navigation projects are maintained 100 percent by the Corps of Engineers up to depths of 45 feet and cost-share 50/50 at depths that exceed 45 feet. As part of the PED phase and during construction, an operations and maintenance manual is developed for use in any OMRR&R activities.