Washington, DC - Less than a week after announcing that it had completed an unprecedented, in-depth review of 171 projects, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers changed course yet again by re-opening reviews on more than 50 projects while dropping some projects from its list altogether and adding others, according to a comparison released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
On April 30th, the Corps announced that it would subject approximately 150 projects previously authorized but not yet under construction to a "rigorous re-evaluation" citing "serious questions in regard to the accuracy and currency of economic analyses." Three weeks later on May 16th, the Corps said it had completed reviews of 171 projects, clearing all but 8 "to proceed." Late last Thursday night (May 23rd), the Corps posted a revised list on its web site, cutting the total number of projects under review to 164 while declaring that 53 projects for which the Corps had previously completed its review were now to undergo additional "re-evaluation."
"If this is a rigorous review then I am Queen of the May," declared PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch whose organization represents Corps economists who have disclosed problems with previous cost/benefit analyses. "The Corps professional staff are among the best in the world but once again are betrayed by a tone deaf leadership."
According to Corps employees, Headquarters announced the original project review with little or no coordination with the Districts actually working on affected projects. When the Districts identified far fewer than 150 projects as meeting the HQ criteria for review, Corps leadership hastily cast about to pad the list to reach a total of 171 projects. Responding to a growing chorus of criticism, last week the Corps released a "revised" list saying that it was unaware that "76 projects were already undergoing rigorous revaluation due to problems previously identified." Meanwhile, several of the most questionable Corps projects have been kept off all versions of the review list.
The more than 50 beach restorations, flood control projects and navigation expansions now being re-evaluated range from California to Puerto Rico and include Devil's Lake in North Dakota, Rehoboth /Dewey Beach "re-nourishment" in Delaware and the Louisville Waterfront in Kentucky.
"Like a drunken sailor, the Corps command is weaving down the street, stumbling from one pothole to the next, loudly declaiming that everything is dandy," commented Ruch. "The central problem with the Corps is not its analyses but its leadership."
A copy of the projects whose status has changed in the latest Corps revision is available upon request or can be viewed here