Hot off the press - this 27 February 2017 CRS report by Nicole T. Carter and Charles V. Stern: Army Corps of Engineers: Water Resource Authorizations, Appropriations, and Activities. For the uninitiated it's a very good overview of the USACE's water activities.
Click on the graphics to enlarge them.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) undertakes activities to maintain navigable channels, reduce flood and storm damage, and restore aquatic ecosystems. The Corps attracts congressional attention because its water resource projects can have significant local and regional economic benefits and environmental effects. Congress directs the Corps through authorizations; appropriations; and oversight of its studies, construction projects, and the ongoing operations of Corps infrastructure. This report summarizes congressional authorization and appropriations processes for the Corps.
Authorizations. Congress generally authorizes Corps activities prior to funding them. The authorization can be project specific, programmatic, or general. The agency’s ability to act on an authorization is often determined by funding. Congress typically authorizes numerous new Corps site-specific activities and provides policy direction in an omnibus Corps authorization bill, often titled a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). WRDAs generally do not provide funds to conduct activities, nor are they reauthorization bills. Congress often considers a WRDA biennially.
During the 114th Congress, Congress enacted the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN; P.L. 114-322). Title I of the bill had the short title of Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA 2016). WIIN Title I contained many provisions similar to two WRDA 2016 bills considered earlier in the 114th Congress—S. 2848 and H.R. 5303. For a discussion of water resource issues in the 115th Congress, including issues that may shape congressional oversight of WRDA 2016 and consideration of a WRDA bill in the 115th Congress, see CRS Report R44738, Water Resource Issues in the 115th Congress, by Charles V. Stern et al.
Appropriations. Federal funding for authorized Corps activities is provided in annual Energy and Water Development appropriations acts or supplemental appropriations acts. Annual Corps appropriations for its water resource activities have ranged from $4.5 billion to nearly $6.0 billion during the last decade. An increasing share of the agency’s appropriations has been used for operations and maintenance. In recent years, some new studies, new construction projects, and new programs have been funded using enacted appropriations. However, many of the projects authorized for construction by previous Congresses have yet to be initiated in part because of competition for funds and because Corps authorizations have outpaced appropriations.
Standard Project Development. The standard process for a Corps project requires two separate congressional authorizations—one for studying feasibility and a subsequent one for construction—as well as appropriations for both. Congressional authorization for project construction in recent years has been based on a favorable report by the Chief of Engineers (known as a Chief’s Report) and an accompanying feasibility report. For most activities, Congress requires a nonfederal sponsor to share some portion of study and construction costs. Cost-sharing requirements vary by type of project. For some project types (e.g., levees), nonfederal sponsors own the completed works after construction and are responsible for operation and maintenance.
Other Corps Activities and Authorities. Although most Corps projects are developed under the standard project-development process, exceptions exist. Congress has granted the Corps some general authorities to undertake some studies, small projects, technical assistance, and emergency actions (e.g., flood fighting, repair of damaged levees, and limited drought assistance). Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can direct the Corps to undertake specified activities in response to an emergency or disaster.
You know the drill. Enjoy!
"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." - John Wooden