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Policy Statement 302 - Cost Sharing in Water Resources Infrastructure Programs

 

Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on December 19, 2016 
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on March 14, 2017
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 29, 2017

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) believes that:

  • Cost-sharing is a necessity among federal, state, and local entities involved in the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of multijurisdictional water resources infrastructure projects.
  • Political and agency leadership must be steadfast and innovative in developing long-term cost sharing approaches for water resources infrastructure projects and programs, including planning for the impacts of climate change.  
  • Planning for interstate or large multijurisdictional projects is an inherently federal function that should be predominantly funded by the federal government. This rule is in recognition of the importance of performing regional and watershed planning to maintain and enhance the integrity of flood-protection systems, navigation, and the environment across multiple jurisdictional boundaries.
  • Long-term cost-sharing approaches should consider:
    • The public's health and safety.
    • The water demands for domestic, industrial, agricultural, navigational, and environmental purposes.
      Flood-damage reduction and the enhancement of water quality.
    • Nonstructural solutions, including changed building elevations and land- use requirements at the local or regional level.
    • The conservation, storage, distribution, and use of available water supplies.  
    • The societal benefits gained from maintaining and enhancing natural environmental functions.
    • The benefits of inter-system connection that improve reliability and resilience in times of drought and other emergencies.
    • The life-cycle costs of the project, including clear upfront designation of which entity will cover lifetime maintenance costs.

Issue

Cost-sharing is an important part of funding water resources infrastructure projects and ensures that local beneficiaries are part of the project development decision making process.  However, water resources projects do not recognize political boundaries. Cost-sharing without a regional or federal perspective can produce projects with a local bias that neglect regional, system wide, or watershed concerns, and ignore the cumulative impacts within the watershed. Such projects are often not in the national interest. The federal government is best suited as a partner in these projects to represent regional, system or watershed interests and to ensure that projects are appropriately integrated into a geographically larger water resources infrastructure program.

Cost-sharing programs for water resources infrastructure projects among federal, state, and local interests should be developed to require an appropriate balance of financial investments from all parties. It should be the initial responsibility of the sponsoring authority to set forth a program of study and implementation, which includes commitment by the project beneficiaries for what they consider to be their equitable level of cost contribution. Additional federal cost-sharing should thereafter be considered based on legal, social, and political commitments and national interests.

Rationale

In 2004, the National Research Council (NRC) reported that since the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986 forces local governments to pay between 35 percent and 50 percent of federal flood protection projects there is an inappropriate focus on locally important projects to the detriment of the national interest. For example, the 2016 Water Resources Development Act requires port deepening projects from 45 feet to 50 feet at a 75% federal cost share.  

"A negative effect of the shift toward more local cost-sharing has been the creation of subtle, but real, incentives for the Corps [of Engineers] to focus on local projects in the absence of any river basin or coastal system master plan. Since a typical non-federal sponsor may have little incentive or legal ability to consider the environmental, economic, and hydrological effects of such projects beyond those experienced locally, the post-WRDA 1986 cost sharing rules favor single-purpose projects with well-defined local benefits because local sponsors tend to promote investments that address specific local needs. As a consequence, the Corps may have limited opportunity to consider projects that involve planning at a broader environmental and hydrological scale than that desired by the local sponsor," the NRC concluded.

ASCE Policy Statement 302
First Approved in 1985

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