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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Army Corps Supplemental Appropriations: Recent History, Trends, and Policy Issues

Charles V. Stern
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Nicole T. Carter
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Under its civil works program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans, builds, operates, and maintains a wide range of water resources facilities. The Corps also plays a prominent role in responding to domestic natural disasters, in particular riverine and coastal flooding events. The Corps can assist in flood fighting at the discretion of its Chief of Engineers in order to protect life and property, principally when state resources are overwhelmed. The Corps is also authorized to protect and repair its own facilities in the event of flooding, and to operate a program, the Rehabilitation and Inspection Program (RIP), that funds the repair of participating nonfederal flood control works (e.g., levees, dams, dunes) damaged by flooding events. The Corps also undertakes a variety of other activities at the request of FEMA under the National Response Framework, which are outside the scope of this report.

In recent years a number of natural disasters have required Corps response and repair activities with costs running into the billions. Congress provided most of these funds through supplemental appropriations. Over the 25-year period from 1987-2012, Congress appropriated $26.9 billion in supplemental funding to the Corps. Congress provided the vast majority of this funding ($25.5 billion) through 12 supplemental appropriations acts between 2003 and 2012. This funding was approximately half of the amount provided to the Corps for regular appropriations over this same period ($50 billion).

Of the $26.9 billion, $22.2 billion (83%) was for responding to flooding and other natural disasters, with the majority of this funding related to Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 storm season ($16 billion). In addition to the disaster funding, Congress provided the Corps with nondisaster related supplemental funds, including $4.6 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5) and $39 million for facility security and other expenditures.

Corps natural disaster supplemental appropriations have typically been for activities funded by two Corps accounts: Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies (FCCE; i.e., flood fighting, repairs to damaged nonfederal flood control projects) and Operations and Maintenance (O&M; i.e., repairs to Corps projects). Nonfederal cost-sharing for FCCE and O&M typically has not been required with some exceptions. Congress provided supplemental appropriations related to Hurricane Katrina beyond the FCCE and O&M accounts; it provided $5 billion for improvements through the Corps Construction account, primarily for additional flood protection in Louisiana. Most of this $5 billion was subject to cost sharing requirements; the bills’ text required either 65/35 federal/nonfederal cost sharing or cost sharing consistent with the original project. Louisiana is repaying over 30 years $1.5 billion of the $5 billion provided in the Construction account. Similar supplemental construction funding for significant flood protection improvements was not provided after Hurricane Ike in 2008 and the 2011 Midwest flooding or for most of the proposed post-Katrina work in Mississippi, or for earlier events such as Hurricane Andrew in 1992 or the 1993 Midwest flood. That is, Hurricane Katrina supplemental construction funding represented the exception rather than the norm.

Proponents of supplemental Corps construction funds for Sandy-impacted areas argue that these investments are significant to the recovery effort and that recent flooding brought to light flood risks warranting near-term attention. These proponents support lowering the nonfederal contribution typically required for Corps flood control projects from the 35% to 10% or less. Others argue that the annual appropriations process is the more appropriate forum for identifying nation-wide flood infrastructure investment priorities, and that post-disaster investments like

those in Sandy-impacted areas should be subject to the same project development and cost-share requirements and compete in the annual budget process as other Corps projects. The Corps has a backlog of more than $10 billion of authorized flood and storm damage reduction projects across the country, which compete for the roughly $1.1 billion in annual Corps flood control construction funds.

Date of Report: January 11, 2013
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R42841
Price: $29.95

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