Listen in on conversations at any prominent DC eatery near Capitol Hill and you’ll hear topics ranging from Social Security solvency to Chinese Spy Balloons to the 2024 election landscape. These are important topics, to be sure. Still, the topic most on the minds of the nationwide water resources community is a document recently unveiled by a relatively small, yet hugely consequential government agency that will ultimately touch the lives of nearly every American. Known as the Fiscal Year 2023 Work Plan for the Army Civil Works program, the $9.8 billion U.S. Army Corps of Engineers execution strategy is the largest single-year work plan ever.
Derived from funding in the annual Energy and Water Appropriation, the Work Plan allocates $8.3 billion in regular appropriations and $1.45 billion in disaster relief funds. According to the Corps’ press release, the Work Plan funds 1,325 studies and projects in 50 states and three territories, including 69 studies and projects to advance President Biden’s “Justice40” initiative in support of disadvantaged communities. The Work Plan also provides $210 million to the Corps’ regulatory program representing a $30 million increase from the 2022 appropriation.
Having been responsible for developing these Corps work plans for five years, I can attest that this Work Plan is unprecedented. That said, delivering a program of this magnitude will face many challenges. To be successful, the Corps, local sponsors, and local interests will need to have a unified strategy for overcoming potential obstacles such as unforeseen environmental effects and any fiscal constraints that may arise.
In addition, inclusion in the Work Plan alone does not guarantee success. Because there are more projects and studies seeking Administration and Congressional support than there are funds available for implementation, those initiatives with uncertain local support and major implementation challenges are unlikely see appropriations for project implementation.
The Work Plan appears to apply significant funding to studies and projects with a high likelihood of trouble-free completion. No doubt there’s a valuable lesson in this for future project applications. A comprehensive and synchronized implementation strategy can reap significant rewards.
For water resources stakeholders or communities with initiatives that were not included in the annual Work Plan, there’s always next year. But you need to start developing a strategy yesterday. Funding for proposed projects and studies starts with advocating local needs to the appropriate Corps District. Early development of a relationship with the local Corps staff is key.
Further, active advocacy of infrastructure needs both within key elements of the Administration and to Congressional delegations is fundamental to having your voice heard and delivering public infrastructure. Missed or overlooked process milestones can set studies and projects back years.
The collaborative effort reflected by the Fiscal Year 2023 Work Plan is always considered a major accomplishment within the Corps’ Civil Works program and again this year it echoes a major area of continued bipartisan support. Finally, a DC power-lunch topic for everybody!
Prior to joining Dawson & Associates in 2012, Rob was the National Water Practice Leader for HNTB Corporation and prior to that, served as Chief of the Civil Works Programs Management Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Funding for the 1,325 projects and studies is appropriated in five accounts: 1. General Investigations ($172.5 million), 2. Construction ($2.106 billion), 3. Operation and Maintenance ($5.121 billion), 4. Mississippi River and Tributaries ($370 million), and 5. The Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) ($400 million).
The $9.8 billion Work Plan allocates funds Congress appropriated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023.
The plan dedicates funds to complete multiple major infrastructure projects, investigations, and engineering and design efforts. For a list of these, click here.
To read the full plan, click here.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dawson & Associates.