The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), through its civil works mission, undertakes water resource development studies and projects and other assistance activities that are specifically authorized by Congress. In Section 7001 of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 (P.L. 113-121; 33 U.S.C. §2282d), Congress established an annual process for identifying proposals for site-specific studies and projects within USACE's water resource mission and authorities. The process includes a call for nonfederal proposals and concludes with a report by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (ASACW) to USACE's congressional authorizing committees.
Congress authorizes USACE studies and projects prior to appropriating funds and typically considers omnibus USACE water resource authorization bills biennially, typically titled as Water Resources Development Acts (WRDAs). Most project-specific authorizations in WRDAs fall into three categories: feasibility studies, construction projects, or modifications to existing authorizations. (See this CRS report for more on the USACE authorization process.)
Inclusion of a proposal in a Section 7001 annual report does not provide congressional authorization or appropriation. Rather, inclusion facilitates congressional consideration of the proposal's authorization (in a manner consistent with congressional earmark moratorium policies). For example, Congress has used Section 7001 annual reports from 2015 through 2018 in developing WRDA 2016 (Title I of P.L. 114-322) and WRDA 2018 (Title I of P.L. 115-270). USACE accepts nonfederal proposals for consideration in Section 7001 annual reports over a 120-day period. The submission period for nonfederal proposals for the 2020 report was open from April 29, 2019, to August 27, 2019. Transmission of the report to Congress is expected in February 2020.
Section 7001 of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA 2014), as amended, directs the ASACW to submit an annual report to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The report may include the following:
For proposals to be included, Section 7001 requires that proposals
(i) are related to the missions and authorities of the Corps of Engineers; (ii) require specific congressional authorization, including by an Act of Congress; (iii) have not been congressionally authorized; (iv) have not been included in any previous annual report; and (v) if authorized, could be carried out by the USACE.
The Section 7001 annual report includes only those proposals that the ASACW determines have met all five criteria. Proposals that do not meet all five criteria are placed in the report's appendix. For most proposals listed in the appendix of past reports, an authority already existed to perform the requested activity or the proposal did not fit within the USACE's missions and authorities (i.e., navigation, flood risk management, or aquatic ecosystem restoration).
The annual report is based, in part, on proposals for study authorization and modification to authorized studies, projects, and environmental infrastructure assistance submitted by nonfederal interests. The annual Section 7001 process begins with the publication of a notice in the Federal Register requesting proposals from nonfederal interests.
Nonfederal proposals are to include the following information:
USACE encourages nonfederal interests to consult with their local USACE districts to determine whether their proposals meet the Section 7001 criteria. According to the Federal Register notice published on April 29, 2019, nonfederal interests do not need to submit completed feasibility reports through the 7001 proposal process for project authorization.
The ASACW transmitted to the authorizing committees Section 7001 annual reports dated February 2015, February 2016, March 2017, February 2018, and February 2019. These reports are available at USACE, "Report to Congress on Future Water Resources Development."
In Section 1401 of WRDA 2018, Congress authorized all projects with feasibility reports that were included in the 2017 and 2018 Section 7001 annual reports. Nineteen of the 20 nonfederal proposals in the bodies of the 2017 and 2018 reports were incorporated into WRDA 2018. Of these, Congress authorized most of the proposals as feasibility studies in Sections 1201 and 1202. Others were authorized as project modifications in Section 1303 or as projects in Sections 1401 and 1403.
In Section 1203 of WRDA 2018, Congress also included some proposals from the appendixes of the 2017 and 2018 reports and directed the ASACW to expedite completion of the listed studies. ASACW had listed many of these proposals in the annual reports' appendixes, based on an existing study authorization.
The Section 7001 annual report for 2019 included 4 reports by the Chief of Engineers (also known as Chief's reports), 15 nonfederal proposals in the body of the report, and 19 nonfederal proposals in the appendix. The report also included recommendations by the ASACW (e.g., one nonfederal feasibility report and three proposed storage use plans) and two reporting requirements from WRRDA 2014.