Water Project Construction Backlog of the Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation

Gao ID: 120637 February 23, 1983

GAO testified before two congressional subcommittees on a GAO report which concerns the water project construction backlog. As of October 1, 1981, the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation had 934 authorized water projects which required about $60 billion to complete construction. In recent years there has been a trend for construction backlog costs to grow because construction funding has not sufficiently offset inflation and other project cost increases. GAO estimated that, with the annual construction funding of $1.4 billion, it will take the Corps about 16 years to complete its projects. New construction starts, rehabilitation of older facilities, and increasing operation and maintenance costs have added to the competition for available water resource funds. The Corps has legislation designed to help with the backlog problem, but its impact has been small. Under this legislation, 453 projects have been deauthorized, but most were deauthorized because they were not economically feasible or did not have local support. The Bureau has no such legislation. The major options available for reducing the backlog include: increasing the annual water project appropriation, requiring the non-federal sector to contribute a more substantial portion of project costs, or establishing a priority system. Establishing a priority ranking system would offer many potential benefits since marginal projects could be postponed, scaled down, or deauthorized while more economically and environmentally sound projects are built.

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