Only As Strong As Its Infrastructure
Navigation channels that support international trade and produce one-third of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, flood-risk reduction that prevents $22.3 billion in average annual damages, $800 million in clean hydropower, water supply shortage for 55 million households are examples of the value the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) brings to the Nation. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t know that the country’s degraded water resources infrastructure is putting all of this at risk and jeopardizing a quality of life that cannot be measured in dollars.
USACE plans, designs, constructs, operates and maintains America’s water resources infrastructure, which is in a state of decline due to the widening investment gap between resources needed and available funding. In an interview conducted by Rosemarie Calvert of the Center for a Better Life, Steve Stockton, USACE Director of Civil Works, provides a sense of urgency and a framework for how USACE plans to tackle the issues of a failing water resources infrastructure.
“For infrastructure to perform well under climate variability significant investment is required for modernization,” explains Stockton. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the Nation’s dams failing grades due to decades of degradation and unsafe flood risk management structures, which is the result of four primary factors.
- Aging Infrastructure – Built in the 1920s and 80s
- Increasing Demands
- Fiscal Constraints
- New 21st Century Challenges – Shifting demographics, climate variability, globalization
With these problem areas in mind, USACE has crafted four complementary initiatives that are a part of a sustainable infrastructure strategy, “to become better prepared for the challenges posed by an uncertain future.”
- Budget – Infrastructure prioritization will focus on investments that generate significant economic benefits, reduce public safety risks, improve human health or restore nationally significant aquatic ecosystems with choice made transparently.
- Planning – The “3x3x3” rule, meaning target cost for a feasibility report will be no greater than $3 million, take no longer than three years, utilize all three levels of USACE’s vertical teams and create reports less than 100 pages. Also, the Corps will consider integrated systems, regions and watersheds and choose planning projects with direct consideration of national priorities.
- Asset Management – Shaping a sustainable portfolio that supplies reliable services, uses improved performance metrics and explores adaptable infrastructure and green solutions to reduce long-term maintenance costs.
- Methods of Delivery – Plans to modernize hydropower, pursue sustainable water development and management, integrate enhanced IT systems for improved communication and better tools, and deliver services through engineering delivery centers.
According to Stockton, the Corps is committed to using sustainable strategies in every facet of its work from building the economy, protecting and restoring the environment, offering affordable recreation opportunities and ensuring flood risk reduction to providing water storage for municipal and industrial water supplies and agricultural irrigation.