Saturday, February 11, 2006

Corps Truths

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget recently created a new web site called that rates all federal programs on a 2-category scale of "effective" or "not performing." Readers will be shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that three Corps of Engineers programs very familiar to Gulf Coast residents are rated "not performing."

Here they are along with what GAO has to say about them --
  • Coastal Storm Damage Reduction:
    Purpose: The program aims to protect lives and reduce damages resulting from hurricanes and storms. The Army Corps of Engineers partners with coastal communities to share the cost of placing sand on beaches or building structures such as jetties or groins. Most projects involve regular, recurring sand placement for up to 50 years.

    Rating: Not Performing
    * The program lacks necessary information on its success in reducing damages from hurricanes and storms in communities where the Corps has built projects or placed sand on beaches. Additional funding may be needed to collect such performance information for completed projects. At this time only anecdotal evidence is available on the program's success.
    * The Administration does not support Federal funding for long-term beach renourishment (for up to 50 years); it supports a scaled back Federal role instead. The Administration supports Federal funding for the initial placement of sand on beaches after which states and local communities would finance the long-term, periodic beach renourishment.
    * Greater coordination may be needed between the Army Corps of Engineers and other Federal, state and local entities to help prevent unwise future development in coastal communities, including those where the Corps has partnered to provide long-term beach renourishment.
  • Flood Damage Reduction
    Purpose: This program aims to reduce flood damage by constructing levees, floodwalls and other structural and non-structural projects. The Corps of Engineers shares the cost of these projects with states and local communities. The Corps also assists states in floodplain management and maintains large federally owned dams and levees.

    Rating: Not Performing
    * The program lacks information on how completed flood damage reduction projects help reduce the Nation's overall flood damages on an annual or long-term basis. The Corps can estimate, however, the economic and environmental return from flood projects under design or construction, and these estimates are used to set funding priorities for the program's budget each year.
    * Greater coordination is needed among this program, FEMA mitigation programs, the National Flood Insurance Program and states and local communities that set floodplain management policies. The lack of coordination between these entities can result in increased or unaddressed risk to communities in flood hazard areas.
    * The program's state and local partners often do not make citizens sufficiently aware of their actual flood risks by publicizing regional flood plain management plans to reduce the impact of future flood events in the project area. Anecdotal evidence also indicates that state and local partners may not be properly maintaining completed flood projects to ensure the level of protection over time.
  • Coastal Zone Management Act Programs
    Purpose: This program uses federal-state partnerships to manage natural, cultural, and economic resources in coastal areas. States with approved coastal zone management plans receive funding in support of wise planning and resource use. The program also provides funding to support research and education at protected estuarine areas.

    Rating: Not Performing
    * The program lacks long-term and annual performance measures and is not able to demonstrate consistent program effectiveness. The program has developed and made some progress implementing adequate performance measures.
    * Federal approval of state coastal management plans helps to ensure that local and state level decisions are consistent with national concerns. Outside studies of the program's effectiveness have found that the state programs are implementing the stated objectives of the Coastal Zone Management Act, and states have seen improvement in many aspects of management of their coastlines.

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