1 April 2014
Feasibility Studies: Building on a Strong Foundation
The elements and process of a Corps feasibility study are defined in legislation and in Corps guidance, and the core of the feasibility study is not changing.
- The purpose of a feasibility study is to investigate and recommend solution(s) to water resources problems. These studies are 50% Federally funded and 50% funded by a non-federal sponsor and begin after the signing of a Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement (FCSA).
- The Project Development Team (PDT) utilizes a progressive 6-step planning process as it moves from scoping to alternatives analysis to a detailed analysis on a selected plan. As needed, the PDT may progressively move through the six-step process multiple times, at increasing levels of detail to move the study ahead.
- The study incorporates quality engineering, economics, real estate and environmental analysis.
- The process is performed within the purview of several statues (e.g., Water Resources Planning Act of 1965, multiple Water Resources Development Acts, Flood Control and Rivers and Harbors Acts, National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, etc.); an executive order (Principles and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies); ER 1105-2-100, the "Planning Guidance Notebook" and other applicable Planning Policy.
The Corps is committed to ensuring that the feasibility studies result in actionable and concise decision documents, within a reasonable timeframe and cost. To achieve these goals, USACE study teams will implement SMART planning principles and:
- Apply critical thinking at all phases of the study, asking what data needed for delineating between alternatives and decision-making.
- What is the decision we are going to make?
- How are we going to make the decision?
- What criteria will we use to make the decision?
- What are the key drivers (data, uncertainty, etc.) that will affect the decision?
- What data is immediately available? Will getting more data change the decision outcome?
- What are the decision risks (probability and consequence of making an undesirable decision) of using the available data?
- At every juncture, where more data, more time, more information is asked for the PDT should feel empowered to ask "Why do we need that data?" and "How Does it Influence the decision?"
- Focus on identifying and then reducing key areas of uncertainty throughout the study.
- Issues of concern are identified early and throughout the iterative process with Vertical Team engagement and appropriately timed and scoped agency review - including District Quality Control, MSC Quality Assurance, technical, policy and legal reviews.
- Develop the Feasibility Study Report from the beginning, without products developed specifically for process milestones (e.g., today’s Feasibility Scoping Meeting and Alternative Formulation Briefing and read-aheads).
- The Feasibility Study prior to selection of the agency recommendation focuses on evaluation of alternatives to reach a single recommended plan for more feasibility level detailed design.
- The Feasibility Study after selection of the agency recommendation focuses on scaling the measures or features in the recommended alternative.