Washington, DC -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers draft feasibility study for a proposed $5.3 billion expansion of the lock system on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway violates agency planning guidelines, ignores the most cost-beneficial alternatives and is riddled with errors, according to a comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The controversial 4,000-page report has been more than a decade in the making and with costs exceeding $70 million. In 2001, three top Corps commanders were disciplined in 2001 for "cooking the books" in an earlier version.
The PEER comments detail how the Corps sidesteps its own rules for ensuring complete and consistent comparisons of alternatives. In addition, the Corps makes a number of mathematical, factual and logical errors in key parts of the report. In addition, the version of the report released this summer by the Corps for public comment--
- Excludes better alternatives, such as immediately implementing a demand management measures to make the existing system more efficient and then observing traffic patterns over time to assess if large-scale, lock expansions are needed;
- Displays a shameless boostersim in what is supposed to be an objective report, using rosy scenarios developed by a consultant whose mission statement is "To be a vital force in the success of food and agricultural industries around the world;" and
- Fails to specify what environmental benefits will result from more than $100 million in restoration efforts.
"The Corps has outdone itself, wasting unprecedented amounts of time and money to produce a massive report that the agency knows full well is self-serving and incorrect," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization represents Corps economists who exposed previous manipulation of economic findings. "The Corps is operating on the assumption that with enough paper the agency can disguise just how big a boondoggle this multi-billion dollar project really is."
The Corps is supposed to analyze comments it receives on its draft report and then make a final recommendation to Congress in October. Supporters of lock expansion, however, have not waited for a final recommendation and are now pushing legislation to authorize the entire $5.3 billion lock expansion. That legislation is currently pending on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
Read the PEER comments
View the Corps draft report