25 Sep 2008

Army Corps Smartens Up

The US Army Corps of Engineers ("we never saw a dam we didn't like") is seeking public comment on its general principles. This bit caught my eye:
Section 9 includes a proposal to use a higher economic standard to justify recommending projects, project features, and increments of work whose primary purpose is to achieve economic benefits. A benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of 1.5, rather than the current 1.0 BCR threshold in the 1983 P&G, is proposed. The higher BCR would result in projects that are more likely to provide a positive net economic return on the federal and local investment. The proposed new standard would exclude projects, project features, and increments of work that provide a low return to the nation.
Given the number of times that BCR ended up being FAR below 1.0, this "margin of safety" makes LOTS of sense. My only question is whether the USACE will be able to find ANY projects with 1.5 -- they've paved over much of the country. Maybe they can use BCRs to undo their prior work -- as they are (with mixed success) in the Everglades.

Written comments on the proposed principles should be submitted by October 15 to Mr. Larry J. Prather, Assistant Director of Civil Works, at the following:
  • Mail: HQUSACE, Attn: P&G Revision, CECW–ZA, 441 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20314–1000
  • FAX: 202-761-5649
  • E-mail: larry.j.prather@usace.army.mil
Bottom Line: I'm glad to see that the Corps has decided to update outdated 1983 principles. Too many watersheds have suffered.

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