Army Corps of Engineers

Our April 26, 2023 article noted that the Principles, Requirements, and Guidelines (PR&G) are about money. The Federal government has a lot of money. Even in an era of budget cutting, it still has a lot of money, and it chooses to spend that money on a whole bunch of

Today’s post features commentary from guest author Julie Minerva.

For lobbyists, reading through annual appropriations reports is like hunting for Easter eggs. Unlike appropriations bills which are slim and rather constrained documents, appropriations reports provide an opportunity for the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to communicate directly to federal agencies. Whether it be prescribing direction to an agency on a particular federal program, conveying the committee’s opinion on an agency’s action (or as the case often is, inaction), or holding back federal funds until an agency performs in accordance with the wishes of the committee, appropriations reports are both entertaining and insightful for Washington insiders. 

Sound the alarmToday’s post features commentary from guest author Julie Minerva.

I must admit, my right hand is numb from hitting the refresh button on my computer since about 11 am EST on Tuesday. That’s because this week the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) was expected to release the Fiscal Year 2017 work plan. That finally happened around 6 pm EST on Wednesday (see previous blog post) and I’ve been combing through its pages ever since. The work plan is a companion document to the annual Energy & Water Appropriations bill and in the absence of earmarks, it’s how projects that didn’t make the cut for inclusion in the President’s budget get funded and also how new studies and new construction projects win coveted new start designations.

Dollar Signs

Good day!  As many of you know, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had scheduled a press conference for Tuesday, May 23 to go over the President’s proposed USACE budget for FY18. The rumor had been that the FY17 Work Plan would be released at the same time. This would have been a pretty monumental accomplishment for USACE and the Assistant Secretary of the Army, especially since Congress did not mandate a workplace until mid-June. But, there is a certain logic to releasing both on the same day as the FY18 Budget should flow from the policy decisions made in the FY17 Work Plan.

Washington DCOn Friday May 5 President Trump signed the budget deal that allows the Federal government to move from its one week continuing resolution to an adopted budget for the 2017 Fiscal Year.  The budget deal includes a healthy set of appropriations for flood risk reduction and puts the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on a path toward moving more projects ahead this year.  But the late passage of the budget (after 7 months of the 12 month fiscal year), will hamstring certain USACE actions.

May 6th is the deadline for comments to be submitted on the draft guidelines for the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. While there have been further attempts at extending the comment period (see for example this letter from 33 members of the House of Representatives), it appears that the deadline will not be changing. Here are some of our current musing on what sorts of comments should be submitted. Please feel free to share these comments around, and to share your comments with us for inclusion in our final letter.

Dear _______:

The [agency or entity name] is pleased to provide comments on the draft Revised Guidelines for Implementing Executive Order 11988, Floodplain Management issued on January 28, 2015 (“Draft Guidelines”). We are a [describe agency or entity].

As a preliminary matter, we are very supportive of the stated goal which appears to underlie the Draft Guidelines and Executive Order 13690 (“EO 13690”): to more fully consider climate change in predicting flood risk and to ensure that this is considered in the context of Federal investments in infrastructure. Indeed, to know that climate change will almost certainly affect flood risk, and to not consider this in the context of federal investments would be foolhardy and could shorten the useful life of Federal infrastructure. But the question is not whether climate change should be considered. Rather, the questions are (1) how it should be considered, (2) whether the Draft Guidelines provide a clear, consistent, and predictable framework for managing the process within the Federal family, and (3) whether other areas have been accidently swept into the consideration of the Draft Guidelines. It is our belief that the current Draft Guidelines do a disservice to the Federal Government by not providing a clear, consistent, and predictable framework and by accidently sweeping other areas into coverage of the Draft Guidelines. We therefore recommend that changes be made to the Draft Guidelines and that they then be released for a further comment period.

This letter is organized into two sections, consisting of general comments that are thematic in nature, and then specific comments on specific sections of the Draft Guidelines.

There is significant uncertainty as to the intent and effect of the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, released as part of the Obama Administration’s issuance of Executive Order 13690, issued in January to amend Executive Order 11988. Based on the chatter in the flood risk management community, the