Water Resources:

Issues Concerning the Arkansas River Basin Operation Plan

RCED-88-166: Published: Jun 23, 1988. Publicly Released: Aug 1, 1988.

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James Duffus, III
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined: (1) whether the Corps of Engineers' Arkansas River Basin Operation Plan accurately reflected the authorized purposes and actual uses of the Basin's 11 reservoirs; (2) the Corps' methodology for estimating benefits and damages resulting from a July 1986 plan modification that called for slowing the rate of water release after flood events; and (3) the Corps' compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act in adopting the modification, especially whether the Corps provided sufficient opportunity for public comment.

GAO found that the Corps: (1) planned to operate all 11 reservoirs for navigation, but legislation authorized such use for only 3 reservoirs; (2) lacked sufficient authority to operate 8 of the 11 reservoirs for navigation unless it could show that such operation was not detrimental to an authorized purpose; (3) was conducting a study to determine the compatibility of authorized and unauthorized uses; (4) used incomplete data in its analysis of the benefits and damages resulting from the July 1986 plan modification, causing understated hydrologic and economic estimates; and (5) did not have to comply with Administrative Procedure Act requirements for public notice and comment, but solicited comments from interested organizations and individuals, and formed a committee to recommend necessary changes to the plan.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In October 1989, the Department of Defense responded with an opinion that navigation on all reservoirs is authorized. GAO Office of General Counsel is currently evaluating the response and believes its position is still valid. Because an impasse exists between GAO and the Corps regarding this recommendation, GAO is closing the recommendation.

    Recommendation: If the Corps' information indicates that the operation of the Arkansas River Basin operation plan for navigation is detrimental to the reservoirs' flood control functions, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Corps' Chief of Engineers to discontinue the reservoirs' use to benefit navigation unless the Corps can obtain legislative approval to add navigation as an authorized purpose for the eight reservoirs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army


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