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Re: E-M:/ Lt. Governor (again) steps into Saginaw River dreding debate


Over the course of its 208-year old history, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has on more than one occasion, made poor engineering decisions that have had major public safety and health consequences. Katrina and the levees in New Orleans the most recent debacle by the Corp.


The Corp in a disagreement with DEQ plans to move ahead with their slurry pit on the Saginaw River. The DEQ says the site needs a slurry wall and groundwater permits. The Corp says no. Nobody asked the residents living next to this site what they wanted. No one asked the taxpayers of Saginaw County who own the site what they wanted. And I doubt seriously if anyone asked what kind of precedent this would set for other dredge disposal sites in the Great Lakes. Let's face it, if the Corp can slurry dioxin into a pit there's not much hope for other sites.


In November 2007, the Water Resources Planning and Modernization Act of 2007 ( S. 564) sponsored by Senators Feingold and McCain resulted in  Congress passing  a law that requires the National Academy of Sciences (or similar body) to independently review certain costly or controversial Corps projects. The impetus was to reign in the unaccountable federal agency.


In fact, more than a decade of reports from the National Academy of Sciences, Government Accountability Office, Army Inspector General, U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, and independent experts, presented to Congress, reveal a pattern of stunning flaws in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project planning and implementation across the nation on hundreds of projects. 


Here are a few synopsis of the most relevant reports to congress which we think need to be considered in light of the Corp of Engineers desire to move forward with the slurry pit on the Saginaw River, intended for 20 years of  dioxin laden sediments from the navigational channel ( perhaps elsewhere).  


2006 (June), American Society of Civil Engineers, Project Engineering Peer Review Within The U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers: recommends that Congress enact legislation to mandate external, independent peer reviews for all major Corps projects that would include reviews of the feasibility report, subsequent design and engineering reports, the project’s plans and specifications, and construction.  Reviews should be carried out by experts who have no connection to the Corps, to the local project sponsor, or to the particular project contract.
2006 (March), GAO (GAO-06-529T), Corps of Engineers, Observations on Planning and Project Management Processes for the Civil Works Program:  finds that recent Corps studies “did not provide a reasonable basis for decision-making” because they were “were fraught with errors, mistakes, and miscalculations, and used invalid assumptions and outdated data.”  Such problems are not unique as “the Corps’ track record for providing reliable information that can be used by decision makers . . . is spotty, at best.”  The recurring problems “clearly indicate that the Corps’ planning and project management processes cannot ensure that national priorities are appropriately established across the hundreds of civil works projects that are competing for scarce federal resources.”  Problems at the agency are “systemic in nature and therefore prevalent throughout the Corps’ Civil Works portfolio” so that effectively addressing these issues “may require a more global and comprehensive revamping of the Corps’ planning and project management processes rather than a piecemeal approach.”
2006 (March), American Society of Civil Engineers, External Review Panel for the Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, Letter to the Corps’ Chief of Engineers:  finds that decisions made during the original design phase led to the failure of the 17th Street Canal floodwall in New Orleans and are representative of “an overall pattern of engineering judgment inconsistent with that required for critical structures.”  These problems pose “significant implications for the current and future safety offered by levees, floodwalls and control structures in New Orleans, and perhaps elsewhere.”  The External Review Panel recommends a number of immediate actions to improve Corps planning for “levees and floodwalls in New Orleans and perhaps elsewhere in the nation” including external peer review of the Corps’ design process for critical life-safety structures.
2003 (May), Pew Oceans Commission, America’s Living Oceans, Charting a Course for Sea Change, A Report to the Nation, Recommendations for a New Ocean Policy:  recommends enactment of “substantial reforms” of the Corps, including legislation to ensure that Corps projects are environmentally and economically sound and reflect national priorities.  Recommends development of uniform standards for Corps participation in shoreline restoration projects, and transformation of the Corps over the long term into a strong and reliable force for environmental restoration. 
Trust the Corp of Engineers? I don't think so..................
Michelle Hurd Riddick
Lone Tree Council
"The Corps is an agency that likes projects, no matter what they do to the environment Give them a dollar and they'll push it any way you want."
---Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) (Washington Post,)




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