The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a key amendment to reform the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of H.R. 1495, the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. The amendment, offered by Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Thomas Petri (R-WI), and strongly supported by House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-Minn), requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to revise its basic planning manual.
This planning manual, known as the Principles and Guidelines (P&G), has not been updated in almost 25 years and is out of date. The current guidelines promote the destruction of storm-tempering wetlands, allow the Corps to build projects that encourage development in high risk areas, and fail to adequately address potential loss of life. The guidelines also allow the Corps to count economic benefits from draining wetlands. Calls for updating the P&G have come from the National Academy of Public Administration, National Academy of Sciences, and blue ribbon interagency panels.
“The House has taken a critical step forward in adopting Congressman Blumenauer’s amendment,” said Melissa Samet, senior director for Water Resources at American Rivers. “The Corps’ outdated guidelines lead to archaic, poorly planned projects that destroy rivers and wetlands, waste tax dollars, and fail to protect communities. As the nation saw in New Orleans, poorly planned projects can have devastating consequences.”
Samet also stated that finishing the job of modernizing the Corps now rests with the Senate, which is poised to take up its own version of the Water Resources Development Act.