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April 18, 2007 - ASCE Letter - H.R. 1495, the Water Resources Development Act of 2007

April 18, 2007

The Honorable Louise Slaughter                             The Honorable David Dreier
Chair                                                                    Ranking Member
House Rules Committee                                         House Rules Committee
Washington, D.C. 20515                                        Washington, D.C. 20515

RE: H.R. 1495, the Water Resources Development Act of 2007

Dear Madame Chairwoman: Dear Representative Dreier:

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) would like to provide the Committee with its
suggestions for certain amendments to H.R. 1495, the Water Resources Development Act
(WRDA) of 2007, that have been submitted to the Committee.

1. Based on the Society’s extensive experience with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the
design and construction of flood-control infrastructure, ASCE supports the following
amendments and recommends that the Rules Committee make them in order:

Blumenauer (OR) #3 This amendment would strike section 2036 of H.R. 1495 and
replace it with language directing the Secretary of the Army to
update the principles and guidelines that the Army Corps of
Engineers uses in the formulation, evaluation, and
implementation of water resources projects. The amendment
would require the Secretary to consult with other agencies and
the public in developing the new principles and guidelines.

The Blumenauer amendment would mandate that the Corps update the Principles and
Guidelines (P&G). This change is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that the Corps
revises the P&G, which are badly outdated. The language in section 2036 of the reported bill
contains a nonbinding “sense of Congress” resolution that would not ensure the necessary
changes to the P&G are implemented in a timely manner—or at all.

Davis, Geoff (KY) #25 The amendment would authorize the Corps of Engineers to
carry out projects to update flood control infrastructure as
required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s map
modernization to update the nation’s Flood Insurance Rate
Maps. 

The Davis amendment is a common-sense plan to integrate the design and construction of
flood-control projects by the Corps with FEMA’s flood-mapping program.

Rohrabacher (CA) #2 The amendment permits ports to levy a fee on containers and
use that fee to pay for security and infrastructure at the ports.

ASCE believes that user fees are one of several excellent means of financing many forms of
vital transportation infrastructure improvements. Any effort to help finance enhancements to
port security is essential to the nation is it combats international terrorism.

Schmidt (OH) #14 Authorizes $15 million annually (2008 through 2013) to allow
the Army Corps of Engineers to work with the states to do an
inventory, an inspection, and an assessment of levees that
were constructed by the Corps, levees that are maintained by
the Corps, and any levee identified by the governor of a state.

The Schmidt amendment would close a significant gap in the reported bill. ASCE strongly
supports an aggressive federal program to inventory and assess the physical condition of the
nation’s levees. There is no national safety program for federal or state levees. There is no
dependable catalog of the location, ownership, condition, hazard potential of levees in the
United States. Such a federal program is long overdue. Flooding from Hurricane Katrina, which
devastated the city of New Orleans in August 2005, demonstrated the need for consistent, upto-
date standards for levees based upon reliable engineering data on their location, function,
and condition.

2. In light of ASCE’s experience with Hurricane Katrina, ASCE opposes the Welch amendment
and urges the Committee not to make it in order.

Welch (VT) #18 This amendment would require Independent Peer Review of
Army Corps of Engineer projects under WRDA to include
economic and environmental analyses. This amendment also
requires the assessment of project and performance
effectiveness and efficiency for projects lasting longer than two
years.

Congress should enact legislation to mandate external, independent peer reviews for major civil
engineering projects. The reviews must cover all final engineering phases of the project,
including the complete feasibility report and its engineering appendix, the design documentation
report, the engineering documentation report, and the project plans and specifications. They
must be conducted by highly qualified experts who are not employed by the Corps or local
sponsor in any capacity. These reviews must occur on projects whenever performance is
critical to the public health, safety and welfare; reliability of performance under emergency
conditions is critical; innovative materials or techniques are used; a project lacks redundancy in
the design; or the project involves unique construction sequencing or a short or overlapping
design construction schedule.

The Welch amendment does not satisfy the engineering requirements for water resources
projects. In addition, its insistence on the use of peer reviews for environmental or economic
analyses would unduly delay the construction of vitally needed infrastructure projects designed
to protect human life.

3. Finally, although ASCE supports dam rehabilitation and repair, we recommend that the
following amendment not be made in order:

Kirk (IL) #10 The amendment authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to
carry out a small dam removal or rehabilitation project if it will
improve the quality of the environment or is in the public
interest. It requires a non-federal cost-share of 35% for any
construction and 100% for operation and maintenance. It
authorizes $25,000,000 for this program, with no more than
$5,000,000 to be used for any one project.

It is not clear how this well-intentioned amendment would be integrated into the existing
National Dam Safety Program. Dams are generally classified as to size by their height, storage
area (in acre-feet), and drainage area (in square miles). The Corps currently has no definition
for "small dams." It is our understanding that the Kirk amendment would not provide clarity on
this point, leaving the final determination of what constitutes a “small dam” to the Corps.

Moreover, Representative Salazar of Colorado and Representative Kuhl of New York have
introduced a bipartisan bill that would authorize the Corps to provide $200 million over four
years to repair, remove, or rehabilitate publicly owned dams, regardless of size. The bill would
track the present Corps classification system based on the hazard potential of the dam. The
bill, H.R. 1098, the Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act of 2007, is currently awaiting action in the
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. We believe this legislation would solve the
problems addressed by the Kirk amendment.

Thank you for considering these proposals to improve WRDA 2007. If ASCE can be of
additional assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at (202) 789-7842 or by email at
bpallasch@asce.org.

Sincerely yours,

Brian Pallasch, CAE
Director of Government Relations

cc: The Honorable James Oberstar
Chair
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
The Honorable John Mica
Ranking Member
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure