Capitol Corner July 2024: U.S. Army Corps’ Call for Water Resources Development Act Projects

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is bipartisan legislation that is traditionally passed every two years. This critical legislation authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Civil Works Program and its work on numerous local and regional water infrastructure projects.

Both the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works as well as the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure have already passed their versions of WRDA this year. The next step for both chambers will be a floor vote, followed by a conference committee where members of each chamber’s respective committees will negotiate the final bill.

Through the Civil Works Program, the USACE constructs projects for the purposes of navigation, flood control, beach erosion control and shoreline protection, hydroelectric power, recreation, water supply, environmental protection, restoration and enhancement and fish and wildlife mitigation. Those projects can include planning, engineering, design and construction activities for water supply and storage, treatment and distribution systems and wastewater treatment systems and plants.

Most USACE water resource projects require two types of congressional authorization, which are provided at different points in time: (1) to study the feasibility of the project and (2) to construct the project. The House version of WRDA (HR 8812) authorizes 160 new feasibility studies for locally proposed projects and 12 construction projects. Of the new feasibility studies, five are located in North Carolina, including one for flood risk management and riverbank stabilization along the Catawba River in the City of Marion, and another for flood risk management near the Pigeon River in Haywood County. The Senate version of WRDA (S 4367) authorizes 81 feasibility studies and 8 construction projects but does not include any located in North Carolina.

Other projects of limited size, scope and complexity do not require project-specific authorization. Instead, those projects are funded under the USACE Continuing Authorities, a group of nine legislative authorizations that allow the USACE to design and implement certain types of water resource projects. Congress created and later altered many of these programs through previous WRDAs. The most recent example was in WRDA 2020 when Congress created a 10-year pilot program that waives cost share requirements for disadvantaged communities.

The USACE views water infrastructure projects as partnerships with non-federal project sponsors, and with the exception of the previously mentioned pilot program, requires a local cost share. The amount of the local cost share varies with the type of project, generally ranging from 25 to 50 percent of project cost. However, in many cases, up to 100 percent of the local cost share can be met through in-kind contributions.

The USACE is currently requesting proposals from non-federal applicants for water resources projects to include in the next WRDA (expected in 2026). Eligibility is determined by the regional district office, which for North Carolina is USACE Wilmington. The deadline for project submission is August 30, 2024. There is a separate ongoing process for considering projects under the Continuing Authorities Program.

If your community is interested in submitting a project, please contact Centralina staff at for more information.