Updated Principles and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies

The Principles and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies (P&G) govern how Federal agencies evaluate proposed water resource development projects. Since 1983, the P&G have provided direction to Federal agencies when evaluating and selecting major water projects, including projects related to navigation, storm resilience, wetland restoration, and flood prevention.

The 1983 standards used a narrow set of parameters to evaluate water investments that made it difficult for Federal agencies to support a range of important projects that communities want, or in some cases precluded support for good projects.  As a result, lack of local support for selected projects has often led to substantial delays, costing taxpayers and leaving communities at risk. 

In the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, Congress instructed the Secretary of the Army to develop a new P&G for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (section 2031). To promote consistency and informed decision making, the Obama Administration in 2009 began the process of updating the P&G for Federal agencies engaged in water resources planning, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Office of Management and Budget. 

In March 2013, the Administration released updated P&G that included a final set of Principles & Requirements that lays out broad principles to guide water investments, as well as draft Interagency Guidelines for implementing the Principles & Requirements.  Developed by Federal agencies and incorporating extensive public comment, the modernized P&G will help accelerate project approvals, reduce costs, and support water infrastructure projects with the greatest economic and community benefits.  They will also allow agencies to better consider the full range of long-term economic benefits of protecting communities against future storm damage, promoting recreational opportunities that fuel local business, and supporting other locally driven priorities.

Released for public review and comment in December 2009, the Principles & Requirements (also called Principles & Standards) incorporate extensive input from the public as well as the National Academy of Sciences.  As called for in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, they emphasize that water resources projects should maximize economic development, avoid the unwise use of floodplains, and protect and restore natural ecosystems.

The updated Principles and Requirements include a number of important changes that modernize the current approach to water resources development. They allow communities more flexibility to pursue local priorities; take a more comprehensive approach to water projects that maximizes economic, environmental, and recreational benefits; promote more transparent and informed decision-making across the Federal Government;  and ensure responsible taxpayer investment through smart front-end planning so that projects proceed more quickly, stay on budget, and perform better.

In addition to the Principles & Requirements, the updated P&G include new draft Guidelines.  Developed through interagency collaboration, the Guidelines lay out the detailed methodology for conducting implementation studies under the new Principles and Requirements. The draft Guidelines will incorporate feedback from the public and stakeholders before being finalized. 

Once the Guidelines are finalized, each agency will update its procedures as needed to apply the new P&G to their agency-specific missions.