Using Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs for Municipal and Industrial Water Supply: Current Issues
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Congress has limited the use of Army Corps of Engineers dams and reservoirs for municipal and industrial MI water supply. Growing MI demands have raised interest in - and concern about - changing current law and reservoir operations to give Corps facilities a greater role in MI water storage. A reallocation of storage to MI use from a currently authorized purpose e.g., hydropower or navigation changes the types of benefits produced by a facility and the stakeholders served. While Congress has specifically authorized 91 Corps multi-purpose facilities for MI supply, it also has delegated to the Secretary of the Army constrained authority to reallocate storage to MI water supply. In the Water Supply Act of 1958 1958 WSA P.L. 85-500, Congress provided that storage at Corps facilities could be allocated to MI water supply without congressional approval if this reallocation did not seriously harm authorized project purposes or involve major structural or operational changes. Whether the Corps has regularly exceeded its discretion to reallocate is a concern raised in response to a July 2009 federal court order that found the Corps exceeded its discretion at Lake Lanier GA. In order to guide its implementation of the discretionary authority to reallocate, the agency developed guidance on what may constitute a major change or serious harm to an authorized purpose. Since 1977 that guidance has included quantitative limits on reallocations conducted without congressional authorization. Issues for Congress include whether the Corps interpretation of its discretionary authority is consistent with congressional intent and whether current law and policy are appropriate for current demands and constraints on water resources. CRS analysis of available data indicates that the Corps generally has not exceeded agency established quantitative limits, with two exceptions in addition to Lake Lanier.
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