Updated Principles, Requirements and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies

The Principles, Requirements and Guidelines for Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies (PR&G) govern how Federal agencies evaluate proposed water resource development projects. Since 1983, the P&G have provided direction to Federal agencies when evaluating and selecting major water projects, including projects related to navigation, storm resilience, wetland restoration, and flood prevention.

The 1983 standards used a narrow set of parameters to evaluate water investments that made it difficult for Federal agencies to support a range of important projects that communities want, or in some cases precluded support for good projects.  Lack of local support for selected projects can lead to substantial delays, costing taxpayers and leaving communities at risk. 

In the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, Congress instructed the Secretary of the Army to develop a new P&G for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (section 2031). To promote consistency and informed decision making, the Obama Administration in 2009 began the process of updating the PR&G for Federal agencies engaged in water resources planning, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Office of Management and Budget. 

In December 2013, the Administration released updated P&G that included a final set of Principles & Requirements that lays out broad principles to guide water investments, and final Interagency Guidelines for implementing the Principles & Requirements.  Developed by Federal agencies and incorporating extensive public comment, the modernized PR&G will help accelerate project approvals, reduce costs, and support water infrastructure projects with the greatest economic and community benefits.  They will also allow agencies to better consider the full range of long-term economic benefits of protecting communities against future storm damage, promoting recreational opportunities that fuel local business, and supporting other locally driven priorities.

Released for public review and comment in December 2009 and finalized in March 2013, the Principles & Requirements (also called Principles & Standards) incorporate extensive input from the public as well as the National Academy of Sciences.  As called for in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, they emphasize that water resources projects should maximize economic development, avoid the unwise use of floodplains, and protect and restore natural ecosystems.

The updated Principles and Requirements include a number of important changes that modernize the current approach to water resources development. They allow communities more flexibility to pursue local priorities; take a more comprehensive approach to water projects that maximizes economic, environmental, and recreational benefits; promote more transparent and informed decision-making across the Federal Government;  and ensure responsible taxpayer investment through smart front-end planning so that projects proceed more quickly, stay on budget, and perform better.

Released for public review and comment in March 2013 and finalized in December 2014, the Interagency Guidelines incorporate extensive input from the public and key stakeholders, and were informed by several workshops on topics such as climate change, ecosystem services, and tribal engagement. Developed through interagency collaboration, the Interagency Guidelines lay out the detailed methodology for conducting implementation studies, clarifying terminology as well as the applicability of and analysis called for under implementation of the PR&G. 

With the updated PR&G, projects will need to factor the full suite of variables and alternatives that lead to sustainable, resilient and enduring investments, including economic, social, and environmental factors.  The updates allow for agencies and the public to participate in a transparent process and gain greater understanding of the tradeoffs of investment alternatives. 

Each agency will update its procedures as needed to apply the new PR&G to their agency-specific missions.