The Endangered Species Act, Hydropower, Recreation, Water Supply course devoted a day to each topic along with a field trip in which the 2013 class visited projects with these purposes and where endangered species mitigation had been implemented.
Endangered Species Act
All planning studies are impacted by the Endangered Species Act. The 2013 class considered the potential direct or indirect impacts to threatened and endangered species as critical information presented to decision makers. Since 1973, coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service works to ensure that federal actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or adversely modify critical habitat for those species. The class learned that early consideration of potential impacts can aid in avoiding adverse impacts, allowing the USACE to act as a responsible steward of not only the environment but also of federal dollars.
The 2013 Planning Associates class learned that USACE involvement in providing hydropower at dams began in 1909 with the acquisition of the 21-megawatt Sault Ste. Marie plant. Today, 24 percent of the hydropower in the U.S. is operated by USACE. In addition, several dams have been modified to include non-federal hydropower plants. Power generated at federal plants is marketed to the public through regional Power Marketing Administrations. Design and analysis for hydropower projects are managed through the Hydropower Analysis Center.
Recreation sites owned and maintained by USACE are the public face of the organization. The class learned that USACE owns and operates 456 lakes and reservoirs across 43 states and that these sites receive 370 million visits every year. Many of these recreation projects were built during the 1960’s, taking advantage of opportunities at existing dams and reservoirs. If inclusion of recreation features is consistent with the primary project purposes, is economically justified, and does not account for more than 10 percent of the total project costs, they can add value to a federal investment and provide benefits for the nation.
Through the water supply mission, the Planning Associates class learned that USACE provides storage for surplus water collected in reservoirs. Water not needed for the originally authorized purpose can be reallocated. This storage is then paid for by the non-federal user, including operations and maintenance. Increased demand for water supply has increased the visibility of the Water Supply mission area. Current challenges include cost allocation disputes, over-withdrawals, and the cost to non-federal users for dam safety improvements and other major rehabilitations. The Water Management Center of Expertise coordinates with water management and reallocation study teams to ensure consistency across the organization.