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Study Initiation Phase
1: Initial Problem Identification
2: Congressional Study Authority
3: Letter of Intent from Sponsor
4: Congress Appropriates Study Funds
5: Execute Feasibility Cost Share Agreement and Secure Sponsor Study Funding
6: Scope and Conduct Study
7: Release Draft Feasibility Report for Concurrent Review
8: Complete Final Feasibility Report for Coordination and Submission
9: Policy Review of Final Feasibility Report
10: Federal and State Agency Review
11: Sign Chief of Engineer's Report
12: Administration Review of Chief of Engineer's Report
13: Congress Appropriates PED Funds
14: Execute Design Agreement and Secure Sponsor Design Funding
15: Conduct Pre-construction Engineering and Design activities
16: Congress Authorizes Project
17: Congress Appropriates Construction Funds
18: Execute Project Partnership Agreement and Secure Sponsor Construction Funding
19: Implement Project
20: Operation, Maintenance, Repair, Replacement and Rehabilitation
Water Resources Project Delivery

    Study Initiation Phase

    The identification of a water resources problem begins with the community. When a community reaches out to their local Corps District office or Congressional representative with a water resources problem, the following key questions will be discussed:

    • Does this fall in the Corps "key mission areas" flood risk management; navigation; aquatic ecosystem restoration; or other authorized mission areas?
    • What is the best way the Corps can help address this problem? Projects that are limited in scope and cost may be implementable through the Continuing Authorities Program. If technical assistance is needed, the Planning Assistance to States or Floodplain Management Services program may be appropriate.
    • Is there existing authority for USACE to conduct a feasibility study or other type of study (e.g., watershed assessment) to address the problem?

    If the community wishes to partner with the Corps for a feasibility study and potential Civil Works project, the first step is ensuring that there is Congressional study authority.

    The Corps must be authorized to undertake a study of a water resources problem " and its potential solution. The authorization can be project-specific, programmatic, or general. While most Corps authorizations are in legislation " usually included in a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) " some Corps studies are undertaken under other authorities. Your local Corps District can help determine if there is existing study authority that applies to your water resources problem.

    If there is not existing authority, the community can propose a study directly to their Congressional representatives or submit a proposal via the annual Report to Congress on Future Water Resources Development.

    Authorizations alone are insufficient for a Corps study or construction project to proceed; the Corps" ability to act on an authorization also requires Congressional funding or "appropriations." Once a study is authorized, appropriations are sought through the annual Energy and Water Development appropriations acts.

    Before the Corps can request Federal funds to initiate an authorized study, it must receive a signed Letter of Intent (LOI) from the prospective study partner. The local Corps District can provide the partner with sample language which will include a description of the problem, the study authority, and a statement of the partner"s intent to enter into a cost sharing agreement to conduct the study.

    A study may receive direct funding via the appropriations act or through a "Work Plan" developed by the Corps to designate Congressional appropriations.

    Once a study has secured federal funding, the study"s non-federal partner and the Corps can initiate the feasibility study by signing a Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement.

    Key Guidance for Corps Planners Additional Resources

  • Principles, Requirements and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies
  • Engineer Regulation 1105-2-100: Planning Guidance Notebook, Full Publication (2000 Expired 12/1/2023)
    ER 1105-2-100, the Planning Guidance Notebook will be superseded by several different pieces of new guidance. For the full suite of guidance replacing the PGN, visit the Core Civil Works Planning Guidance page.
  • The Planner's Library
    Links to Corps guidance, fact sheets, and lessons learned.
  • WRDAs and Related Laws
  • Implementation Guidance for Section 160 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, Definition of Economically Disadvantaged Community (2023)
    Section 160 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 directs the Secretary to define the term "economically disadvantaged community" for the purposes of the Act and the amendments made by the Act. The definition for "economically disadvantaged community" provided in this memorandum from the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works applies to all provisions in WRDA 2020 including any amendments, and future WRDA provisions for which no specific definition appears in the law.
  • Army Corps of Engineers: Water Resource Authorization and Project Delivery Processes (2019)
    This 2019 report from the Congressional Research Service summarizes USACE authorization legislation, the standard project delivery process, authorities for alternative water resource project delivery, and other USACE authorities.
  • Civil Works Study and Project Partnerships (2015)
    Introduction to the partnership between USACE and non-federal sponsors in developing a feasibility study and recommendation of a Civil Works water resources project.
  • Annual Report to Congress on Future Water Resources Development
    This annual report identifies, for potential congressional authorization, completed feasibility reports, proposed feasibility studies, and proposed modifications to authorized projects or studies.
  • Planning Manual Part II: Risk-Informed Planning (2017)
    The Planning Manual Part II: Risk Informed Planning documents the state of the practice in risk-informed planning for the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Planning Community of Practice. It is a continuation of the original Planning Manual, published by the USACE Institute for Water Resources in 1996.
  • Planning Manual (1996)
    The Planning Manual describes what planning is and how it is best practiced by the Corps of Engineers. It focuses on water resources planning, though the principles, tools and methodologies discussed are equally applicable to other planning functions as well. The Manual walks planners through the six-step planning process used by the Corps and applicable to all the Corps' water resources and other planning functions.
  • WRDAs and Related Laws
  • Planning Primer (1997)
    The Planning Primer is a condensed version of the Planning Manual. It is an introduction to planning and how it is done using the six-step planning process for those who have no formal training in planning.
  • Corps Divisions and Districts
    Contact information for your local Corps District.
  • Civil Works Budget and Work Plan
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
    House authorizing committee for most Corps activities.
  • Senate Environment & Public Works Committee
    Senate authorizing committee for most Corps activities.
  • House Appropriations Committee
  • Senate Appropriations Committee
  • Model Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement and Model Memorandum of Understanding for In-Kind Contributions
    To streamline implementation and achieve national consistency, policy compliance, legal sufficiency, and equitable treatment of project sponsors, the Corps has developed models for drafting individual project specific agreements.
  • Partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: A Guide for Communities, Local Governments, States, Tribes, and Non-Governmental Organizations (2019)
    Partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: A Guide for Communities, Local Governments, States, Tribes, and Non-Governmental Organizations provides potential sponsors with information on the programs and processes available for non-federal partners and USACE representatives to work together to address the Nation's water resources problems. The Guide includes an overview of the USACE Civil Works Program and describes how USACE can work with local, State, Tribal, and Federal agencies and other non-federal partners on activities ranging from technical services and advice to planning and constructing water resources projects. A previous version of this document was originally published as the Project Partnership Kit by IWR back in 1996 and revised in 2001.