Army Corps of Engineers: Environmental Infrastructure Assistance




Updated January 26, 2021
Army Corps of Engineers: Environmental
Infrastructure Assistance

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) undertakes
Although most USACE EI assistance requires cost sharing
water resources development projects pursuant to
at 75% federal and 25% nonfederal, some assistance
authorizing statutes and the receipt of appropriations.
authorities are set at 65% federal and 35% nonfederal. The
Traditional USACE projects for navigation, flood control,
nonfederal sponsor is the owner of constructed facilities and
and ecosystem restoration are authorized in omnibus
is responsible for 100% of operations and maintenance.
authorization bills often titled Water Resource
Development Acts (WRDAs). Since 1992, Congress also
USACE may perform the authorized design or construction
has authorized and provided for USACE assistance with
work, and often can use appropriated funds to reimburse
planning, design, and construction of municipal drinking
nonfederal sponsors for work the sponsors perform, subject
water and wastewater infrastructure projects in specified
to the availability of appropriations.
communities, counties, and states. This assistance supports
publicly owned and operated facilities, such as distribution
Authorizing Environmental
and collection works, stormwater collection and recycled
Infrastructure Assistance
water distribution, and surface water protection and
Beginning with WRDA 1992 (P.L. 102-580), Congress has
development projects. This USACE assistance is broadly
authorized USACE to contribute EI assistance to more than
labeled environmental infrastructure (EI).
350 projects and programs, with cumulative authorizations
of appropriations totaling more than $5 billion. The
EI authorities generally are referred to as either in one of
authorizations of appropriations for these activities vary
two categories: Section 219 projects or EI projects and
widely, from $100,000 for a water monitoring station to
programs (individually referenced by their authorizing
$585 million for a six-state EI program (Western Rural
section). Section 219 of WRDA 1992 (P.L. 102-580), as
Water).
amended, includes various EI assistance authorizations for
projects (e.g., municipal drinking water, stormwater
Section 219 of WRDA 1992 authorized design assistance
control) at specific geographic locations (e.g., city, county,
for 18 projects, and six other sections authorized design and
multiple counties). Other WRDAs and some Energy and
construction assistance for EI assistance projects and
Water Development Appropriations acts also have included
programs in select geographic areas (e.g., southern West
EI authorities—many of these are for EI programs with
Virginia). WRDA 1996 (P.L. 104-303) added construction
broader purposes and geographic scope.
assistance to the Section 219 EI authorities. Subsequent
USACE authorization and appropriation acts included
No Administration has ever requested authorization or
authorizations for new EI assistance projects (e.g., WRDA
appropriations for USACE to perform EI assistance. The
2007 [P.L. 110-114] added over 200 projects) and raised
Congressional Research Service (CRS) reviewed enacted
the authorized funding ceilings for previously authorized EI
legislation likely to include EI assistance authorities and
assistance.
identified authorized EI assistance in at least 44 states, the
District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and
Authority Modifications
the Northern Mariana Islands. CRS did not identify
Numerous factors, including adherence to policies
authorities for EI assistance in Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa,
restricting congressionally directed spending (earmarking),
Maine, Nebraska, Washington, and other U.S. territories .
have limited recent authorizations of new EI assistance.
However, in WRDA 2016 (Title I of P.L. 114-322) and
USACE Assistance
WRDA 2018 (Title I of P.L. 115-270), Congress provided a
EI assistance projects are not traditional USACE water
mechanism to modify existing EI authorizations (e.g.,
resource projects and are not subject to the USACE
expand the location, amend eligible projects types, and
planning process (e.g., a USACE feasibility study is not
adjust the authorization of appropriations) through the
performed); however, EI assistance is subject to federal
“Section 7001” proposal process. Section 7001 of Water
laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act
Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-
(NEPA). USACE evaluates an activity’s eligibility for
121) requires USACE to annually submit a report to
assistance by identifying whether there is an EI
Congress identifying study and project authorizations and
authorization for the geographic area of the project, and
modifications proposed by nonfederal interests that meet
whether the type of proposed activity is eligible under the
certain criteria. Congress may consider these proposals as
EI authorization.
part of WRDA deliberations. For example, in WRDA 2020
(Division AA of P.L. 116-260 ), Congress amended 14
The nature of USACE’s involvement and nonfederal cost
environmental infrastructure authorities to increase the
share vary according to the specifics of the authorization.
authorizations of appropriations, for a total increase of
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Army Corps of Engineers: Environmental Infrastructure Assistance
$828.5 million. For four of these authorities, Congress
Figure 1. Annual EI Funding per State
expanded the geographic scope or authorized activities. For
more information on the Section 7001 proposal process, see
CRS Insight IN11118, Army Corps of Engineers: Section
7001 Annual Report on Future Studies and Projects
.
Funding for EI Assistance
Congress regularly includes USACE EI funding in
appropriations bills. EI assistance is funded through the
agency’s Construction account in annual Energy and Water
Development Act appropriations. Since 1992, Congress
cumulatively has appropriated roughly $2 billion in funds
for USACE EI assistance. In recent years, Congress has
funded EI assistance as part of the “additional funding”
provided above the President’s budget request. For
example, Congress provided $100 million of additional
funding for USACE to allocate among EI assistance
authorities for FY2020 and FY2021 (see Table 1).
Table 1. Funding for USACE EI Assistance Projects
($ in millions, not adjusted for inflation)

Fiscal Year

2017
2018 2019
2020
2021
Total Funding
$55
$70
$77
$100
$100
Projects Funded
31
36
36
32
27
Median Funding
$1.6
$1.5
$1.8
$3.0
$2.9
per Project
Percentage of
2.9%
3.4%
3.5%
3.7%
3.7%
Construction
Account Funding
Source: CRS, compiled from USACE Work Plans (FY2017-FY2021).

Reports accompanying appropriations acts specify how the
Source: CRS, using USACE Work Plans.
Administration is to direct its use of these funds to
authorized EI assistance projects. The agency identifies
Notes: Although they have EI assistance authorization, 17 states, the
selected EI assistance projects in its work plan for the fiscal
District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the
year, which is typically available within
Northern Mariana Islands have not received funding in the last five
two to three
months after enactment of appropriations. As shown in
fiscal years.
Table 1, USACE distributed the $100 million provided for
Other Federal Assistance Authorities
FY2021 among 27 EI projects and programs.
At times, various Administrations and others have
A subset of authorized USACE EI projects and programs
identified EI assistance as a low priority for USACE, in part
have received funding: 27 states with EI assistance
because other federal and state agencies have programs for
authorizations have received funding in the last five fiscal
which these nonfederal water projects may be eligible. A
years (see Figure 1). As with many USACE projects,
related amendment to eliminate funding for EI assistance
congressional support for appropriations of specific EI
failed by a vote of 12-84 during Senate floor consideration
assistance is complicated by the authorities’ geographic
of FY2017 Energy and Water Development appropriations.
specificity, which is impacted by earmark moratoria
CRS Report RL30478, Federally Supported Water Supply
policies. In recent years, USACE has funded ongoing EI
and Wastewater Treatment Programs, describes other
assistance. For FY2021 appropriations, Congress stated in
federal programs that provide assistance to similar water
the accompanying explanatory statement that USACE may
projects using established criteria.
allocate funds to one or two EI authorities that were not
previously funded. USACE chose not to fund new
Anna E. Normand, Analyst in Natural Resources Policy
authorities in the FY2021 work plan, although USACE did
IF11184
provide EI funding to the state of Arizona for the first time
under the Western Rural Water authority expanded by
WRDA 2020. WRDA 2020 also directed USACE to
develop criteria for funding EI authorities.
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Army Corps of Engineers: Environmental Infrastructure Assistance


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