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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief Flowers Addresses Mayors of the Urban Water Council

By Rich Anderson
February 9, 2004


Lt. General Robert B. Flowers, Chief of the Corps of Engineers provided comments to Mayors attending The U. S. Conference of Mayor's 72nd Winter Meeting on January 21 in Washington. Flowers provided information on how the Corps is involved with water infrastructure and infrastructure security in the United States. He pointed out that the Corps' experience in developing and managing water resources began in the 1800's to facilitate "Army cargo movements", but has grown to include assistance to states and localities in economic development. Both the military and civil works missions provide great value to the nation. Sugar Land (TX) Mayor David G. Wallace commented on how the Corps has been a key player in economic development in and around Sugar Land.

Flowers indicated that the Corp has been granted more than 200 authorities by Congress over the years. One that he highlighted in his remarks is the "Continuing Authorities Program" that allows the Corps to undertake nine types of water resource and ecosystem restoration projects without specific congressional authorization. These types of projects can be accomplished in the near-term, and the community and environmental benefits can be achieved rapidly. He identified a levee construction project to increase flood protection in Cedar Falls, Iowa; and a wetlands and wildlife sanctuary constructed in Beargrass Creek in Louisville, Kentucky as two of many examples.

Other examples of how the Corps has provided direct assistance to cities as partnerships were presented. One in particular was the assistance provided to Augusta Mayor Bob Young. The General stated that they shared data on water resources with the City of Augusta concerning the Savannah River with city managers. He also mentioned how the Corps was providing assistance to the Texas Water Development Board to support their "bottom-up regional water planning" efforts.

In addition to the programs identified above, the Corps of Engineers provides engineering support to 60 non Department of Defense Federal agencies, States and local governments under the Interagency and International Support program. In his response to a question about boundary issues, Flowers pointed out that collaborative relationships between the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies and state and local governments combines the expertise of local leadership with the Corps' technical abilities. These relationships, Flowers noted, are key to success and will enable the Corps to serve people and cities more quickly and provide high quality of products.

The General stated that the Corps has been reorganized into a management model using cross-functional teams based on watersheds. Past experience indicated that a single project approach worked well when the nation was sparsely populated, but the growth in population from 82 million people in 1904 to over 292 million people today requires a more complex and sophisticated approach. The competition for water resources among the nation's population suggests that solving one area's water problems may cause more problems for other areas. A request was made to Congress to fund monitoring studies for five relatively small watersheds to gauge the impacts of water related activities as a pilot project.

Wallace thanked the General for his participation in the meeting. He stated that the Regional Seminar on Water Partnerships to be held in Sugar Land, Texas this winter will include participation by the District Corp office.

The Urban Water Council plans to hold a focused seminar on partnerships with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2004. Mayors are invited to participate by calling Rich Anderson, Urban Water Council Senior Advisor, at 202-861-6795, or by email at randerson@usmayors.org.