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Ecosystem Restoration

Ecosystem Restoration Image.Ecosystem restoration activities examine the condition of existing ecosystems and determine the feasibility of restoring degraded ecosystem structure, function, and dynamic processes to a less degraded, natural condition. The Corps of Engineers’ ecosystem restoration program seeks to provide a comprehensive approach for addressing the problems associated with disturbed and degraded ecological resources.

Corps of Engineers activities in ecosystem restoration concentrates on engineering solutions to water and related land resource problems. The principal focus is on those ecological resources and processes that are directly associated with the hydrology of the ecosystem and watershed.

What the Corps of Engineers Can Do:

The Corps of Engineers has been authorized by Congress to perform ecosystem restoration in conjunction with water resource and related land resource issues. These services can be performed by seeking specific project authority or through the Continuing Authorities Program, aimed at smaller projects. Each of the programs requires a study (decision) process and a cost-share sponsor prior to a study or before implementation of a project.

Specific Project: This approach is applied to larger projects that require specific authorization and appropriation of funds from the Congress. Typical projects include investigation and restoration of watersheds and river basins. Currently, the Rock Island District is working on the Illinois River Basin Restoration, Peoria Riverfront Development, and the Upper Mississippi River System - Environmental Management Program.

Study Process (Specifically Authorized Studies and Projects):
Before the Federal Government can participate in implementing a project, planning studies must be conducted to determine if the project is feasible. Planning studies are typically conducted in two phases — reconnaissance and feasibility. A description of these phases is as follows:

Reconnaissance Phase:
The reconnaissance phase is fully funded by the Federal Government (limited to $100,000) and is usually completed in less than 12 months. The purposes of the reconnaissance phase are to:

  • Define the problems and opportunities, and to identify potential solutions;
  • Determine whether or not planning should proceed into the feasibility phase based on a preliminary assessment of the Federal interest, and environmental impacts of the identified alternatives;
  • Estimate the cost of the feasibility phase; and,
  • Determine if there is a sponsor that will cost-share the project and the feasibility phase.

The reconnaissance phase is completed upon the signing of a Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement (FCSA) by the Corps of Engineers and the sponsor. The feasibility study cannot be initiated until the FCSA is signed.

Feasibility Phase:
The feasibility phase optimizes the plan or plans to be built, and can take up to 3 years to complete if adequate funding is received in a timely manner. The feasibility phase is cost shared equally between the Corps of Engineers and the non-Federal sponsor. The non-Federal share of feasibility phase costs may be a combination of cash and in-kind products or services.

The feasibility report results in a recommendation to Congress for or against Federal participation in solutions to the water resources problems and opportunities identified in the study. There is national policy on how the Corps of Engineers determines when the Federal involvement is merited. A recommendation for Federal participation precedes a recommendation for construction authorization.

The recommendation for implementation is forwarded to Congress to ultimately decide if the project will be authorized. A project must be authorized by Congress for it to be implemented.

Project Implementation and Local Partnership:
Following authorization for construction of a project, the sponsor enters into a Project Partnership Agreement to define the responsibilities of each party. The sponsor must normally agree to the following:

  • Provide without cost to the United States all lands, easements, rights-of-way, relocations and disposal areas (LERRDs) necessary for the construction and subsequent maintenance of the project;
  • Provide without cost to the United States all necessary alterations of buildings, utilities, highways, bridges, sewers, and related and special facilities;
  • Hold and save the United States free from damages due to the construction and subsequent maintenance of the project, except damages due to the fault or negligence of the United States or its contractors;
  • Maintain and operate the project after completion without cost to the United States;
  • Prevent future encroachment, which might interfere with proper functioning of the project;
  • Assume responsibility for all costs in excess of applicable Federal cost limitations;
  • If the value of the sponsor’s contribution above does not equal or exceed 35 percent of the project cost, provide a cash contribution to make the sponsor’s total contribution equal to 35 percent.

How to Request Assistance:

General Investigation Study requests should be directed to (309) 794-5853 or e-mail cemvr-outreach-web@usace.army.mil.