Improved Formulations and Presentation of Water Resources Project Alternatives Provide a Basis for Better Management Decisions

CED-78-42: Published: Feb 1, 1978. Publicly Released: Feb 1, 1978.

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After the Congress authorizes a water resources study, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers prepare reports on the economic and environmental feasibility of carrying out alternative solutions to the problem under study. The Water Resources Council, a policy and coordinating body, has established Principles and Standards for Planning Water and Related Land Resources. These guidelines require that at least two alternative plans be presented in each feasibility report, one stressing economic development and the other environmental enhancement. Both agencies have adopted internal regulations incorporating these principles and standards.

Bureau of Reclamation reports, particularly older ones, have not provided adequate information on alternatives. Current reports include more information but do not consistently address important issues, comply with current procedures, or contain comparable details on alternatives. Current procedures, along with proposed changes if properly implemented, should increase the amount of information and improve the consistency of data presented on alternatives. Corps of Engineers reports generally are well organized and address alternatives but would provide a better basis for management decisions if: the organization and format of each report were standardized and consistently presented, more detailed information were presented for each alternative, and both advantages and disadvantages for each viable alternative were discussed. New draft agency regulations, when fully in use, should improve the agencies' presentation of project alternatives. The agencies should, in their procedures and regulations, classify their budgets according to mission needs and solicit proposals from other agencies and private industry when considering alternatives during feasibility studies.

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