The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today voted for a measure to require peer review of costly and controversial Army Corps of Engineer civil works projects as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2003.
For several years, a coalition of environmental, conservation, and taxpayer organizations, including Earthjustice, has been calling on Congress to require independent review of Corps projects in the wake of numerous reports that have uncovered fundamental and critical flaws in the Corps’ environmental and economic analyses of a host of highly controversial and costly water resources development projects.
“The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s action today represents a real step in the right direction towards truly reforming the Corps of Engineers,” said Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice. “While we believe the independent review provisions adopted today need to be substantially strengthened, it is a major milestone in the campaign to reform the Corps that, for the first time, a Congressional committee has acted on the well-demonstrated need for independent review of the Corps’ civil works projects.”
In recent years, two National Academy of Sciences panels and the Army Inspector General have concluded that the Corps has an institutional bias for approving large and environmentally damaging navigation, flood control and other types water resources projects, and that its project planning process lacks adequate environmental safeguards. Unfortunately, the Corps has a long track record of spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to pursue projects that destroy our nation’s water resources.
“Corps civil works projects have been responsible for damaging many of the nation’s most important rivers and other waters, destroying wetlands and fish and wildlife habitat, and reducing recreational opportunities,” said Mulhern. “These abuses must be stopped, and today’s committee action shows that Congress recognizes it is high time to address these problems and restore some integrity to the Corps’ civil works program.”
“The public should be able to have confidence that that civil works projects are based in sound science and sound economics, and that the nation’s water resources will not be needlessly harmed by the Corps,” Mulhern added. “Independent review of Corps’ projects is one of the most important reforms for achieving these goals.”