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Request for Federal Engagement
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


    Often referred to as the first step toward construction of a Civil Works water resources development project, the feasibility study is the disciplined process under which Corps planners work with a non-federal study sponsor and multi-disciplinary study teams to identify water resources problems, formulate and evaluate solutions, resolve conflicting interests, and prepare recommendations. A feasibility study is used to investigate the Federal interest, engineering feasibility, economic justification and environmental acceptability of a recommended water resources project. A feasibility study determines if Congressional authorization and implementation of a specific Civil Works project are warranted.

    Corps feasibility studies are cost-shared with a Sponsor, reflecting our shared responsibility for the nations water resources. A Sponsor can be a State, Tribe, county, city, town, or any other political subpart of a State or group of States that has the legal and financial authority and capability to provide the funding and real property requirements needed for a study and a project. Certain single-purpose inland navigation studies may be conducted without a Sponsor, at 100% federal expense.

    Since 1986, Sponsors have been authorized to undertake feasibility studies of proposed water resources development projects for submission directly to the Secretary of the Army. These studies are sometimes referred to as "Section 203" studies under the section of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986 that authorizes them. Guidance for conducting these studies can be found in Engineer Regulation 1165-2-209, "Studies of Water Resources Development Projects by Non-Federal Interests."

    The results of a feasibility study, the recommendation for the authorization of a specific water resources project and the analyses that support that recommendation, are documented in a feasibility report. The final feasibility report will include documentation required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other applicable laws and guidance.

    The recommendation to Congress for authorization of a water resources project will be made by the Chief of Engineers in the form of a "Chiefs Report." After the Chiefs Report is signed, the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) will officially transmitted the Chiefs Report to Congress with the views of the Administration.

    The Corps follows the six-step planning process defined in the Economic and Environmental Principles and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies (P&G) developed in the 1980s to guide the formulation and evaluation studies of the major Federal water resources development agencies. This process is a structured approach to problem solving which provides a rational framework for sound decision making. The six-step process is used for all Corps planning studies, regardless of scale. It is important to stress the iterative nature of the six-step process in water resources project planning. The six steps, though presented and discussed in a sequential manner for ease of understanding, usually occur iteratively and sometimes concurrently. Iterations of steps are conducted as necessary to formulate efficient, effective, complete, and acceptable plans.

    In 2012, the Corps implemented SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Risk-Informed, Timely) Planning for conducting civil works feasibility studies for water resources development projects. The SMART Planning process still relies on the structured six-step planning process, and is intended to improve and streamline feasibility studies, reduce their cost, and expedite their completion by acknowledging uncertainty and using only the level of detail needed to make a risk-informed decision.

    The Corps and a non-federal partner may also re-examine an existing authorized Corps project (or a recommended project that has not yet been constructed) in a "general reevaluation report" or GRR. The process of developing a GRR follows the same guidance and process as a feasibility study.

    What Does a SMART Feasibility Study Look Like

    Key Guidance for Corps Planners Additional Resources

  • Principles, Requirements and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies
  • Engineer Regulation 11-1-321: Value Engineering (2005)
    This regulation applies to all Value Engineering (VE) activities of the Corps of Engineers. The VE program applies to all procurement acquisitions that are federally funded and managed by the Corps of Engineers including, but not limited to, Civil Works and Military construction projects.
  • Engineer Regulation 1105-2-100: Planning Guidance Notebook (2000)
    The Planning Guidance Notebook provides the overall direction by which the Corps of Engineers civil works projects are formulated, evaluated, and selected for overall implementation. This includes all appendices that were written at a later date.
  • Engineer Regulation 200-2-2: Procedures for Implementing NEPA (1988)
    This regulation provides guidance for implementation of the procedural provisions of the NEPA for the Civil Works Program of the USACE.
  • Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Memorandum for Heads of Federal Departments and Agencies: Implementation of Updated National Environmental Policy Act Regulations (2020)
    This memorandum provides direction for Federal departments and agencies on the CEQ’s final rule updating its regulations at 40 CFR parts 1500-1508 implementing the procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. (NEPA), published on 16 July 2020. The final rule modernizes and clarifies the CEQ regulations to facilitate more efficient, effective, and timely NEPA reviews by Federal departments and agencies in connection with proposals for agency action.
  • Engineer Regulation 1110-2-1150: Engineering and Design for Civil Works Program (1999)
    This regulation defines engineering responsibilities, requirements, and procedures during the design, construction, and operations phases.
  • Engineer Regulation 1110-1-12: Quality Management (2006)
    Contains information on Project Management Plans, Independent Technical Review, and Risk Management.
  • Engineer Regulation 1165-2-29: Water Resources Policies and Authorities - General Credit for Flood Control (1987)
    This regulation establishes guidelines and procedures for application of Section 104 of Public Law 99-662.
  • Engineer Regulation 1165-2-119: Water Resources Policies and Authorities - Modifications to Completed Projects (1982)
    This regulation provides guidance on the use of available authorities in comparison to the need for new project authorizations.
  • The Planner's Library
    Links to Corps guidance, fact sheets, and lessons learned
  • Engineer Regulation 1165-2-209: Studies of Water Resources Development Projects by Non-Federal Interests (2016)
    This regulation provides policy guidance for implementation of Section 203 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986, as amended. Section 203 authorizes non-Federal interests to undertake feasibility studies of proposed water resources development projects for submission to the Secretary of the Army. Separate guidance is provided on the construction of water resources development projects under Section 204 of WRDA 1986, as amended. Portions of this ER have been amended by implementation guidance for Section 1126 of WRDA 2016.
  • Engineer Regulation 1165-2-502: Resources Policies and Authorities; Delegation of Review and Approval Authority for Post-Authorization Decision Documents (2014)
    This regulation provides guidance on delegated review and approval of Post-Authorization Decision Documents.
  • Engineer Circular 1165-2-217: Water Resource Policies and Authorities, Review Policy for Civil Works (2018)
    This Circular establishes an accountable, comprehensive, life-cycle review strategy for Civil Works products by providing a seamless process for review of all Civil Works projects from initial planning through design, construction, and Operation, Maintenance, Repair, Replacement and Rehabilitation (OMRR&R). It also provides the procedures for ensuring the quality and credibility of USACE decision, implementation, and operations and maintenance documents and work products.
  • WRDAs and Related Laws
  • Planning Smart Guide
    Overview of the feasibility study process, with tips, tools, and techniques for implementing SMART Planning.
  • Army Corps of Engineers: Water Resource Authorization and Project Delivery Processes (2019)
    This 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.
  • Planning Mentor Handbook – A Tool for Mentors Assisting USACE Project Delivery Teams, Version 1.0 (2020)
    This Handbook describes concepts, tools, and techniques available to help guide study teams incorporate risk-informed decision making in the USACE water resources project planning process, especially in the early phases of the iterative six-step planning process. The Handbook is a useful reference if you are a planning mentor or a planner working looking to explore applying these concepts to a 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.
  • 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.
  • SMART Planning Feasibility Studies: A Guide to Coordination and Engagement with the Services (2015)
    This guide was developed through a collaboration between the Corps, USFWS and NMFS. The Guide provides an overview of the SMART Planning process and demonstrates how key environmental coordination and compliance activities fit into that process. The Guide highlights opportunities for engagement and coordination at all stages of a planning study, re-emphasizing the need for early coordination.
  • 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.
  • IWR-APT (Assistance for Planning Teams)  Corps Castle
    IWR-APT is an online software tool to help project delivery teams (PDTs) create, edit, analyze and manage their study materials. Modules currently within APT include: Risk Register, Decision Management Plan (DMP), Decision Log, Study Issue Checklist, and SMART Planning Deliverable Workflow.
  • 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.

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