BY AMY Wold
Advocate staff writer
October 05, 2012
The existing water infrastructure in the country, such as dams, levees and navigation channels, cannot be maintained with the annual funding being allocated for the job, according to a new report from the National Research Council of the National Academies.
That’s a central message of a report released Thursday titled “Corps of Engineers Water Resources Infrastructure: Deterioration, Investment, or Divestment?” said David Dzombak, chairman of the committee that wrote the report and director of the Steinbrenner Institute of Environmental Education and Research at Carnegie Mellon University.
If the federal government continues without changing how water resources infrastructure is maintained, it will mean more failures of such infrastructure and result in “negative social, economic and public safety consequences,” the report says.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, through approval and funding from congress, has built water management resources that includes 700 dams, 14,000 miles of levees and 12,000 miles of navigation channels and water control structures, according to the report. However, water resource management structures in the nation have been largely “built out” and there is less need to build more, according to the report.
Despite the reduced need for new projects, the federal system for dealing with water infrastructure projects remains focused on building new projects through processes such as the Water Resources Development Act. This act, the last one of which was passed in 2007, is a list of projects for new construction and replacement construction throughout the country.
However, Dzombak said, it’s not the ideal way to fund maintenance and operation of projects on an annual basis or as a way to prioritize where that money should be spent.
The report also says the federal government needs to find new approaches to fund the operation, maintenance and replacement of infrastructure, including partnerships with private businesses as well as state and federal agencies.
In addition, the report says there needs to be more specific leadership on prioritizing where money is needed to maintain infrastructure.
The full report is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13508.