The long-awaited federal water resources authorization bill is likely on its way to becoming law. The bill authorizes work carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE”), ranging from navigation to flood control. As of May 22, 2014, both the House and Senate have approved the Conference Report. See here for more information.
This year’s bill is different because it is called Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. The bill’s effort to “reform” water resources programs is evident in at least two examples.
First, it sets benchmark goals on USACE’s review of “Section 408” permits (i.e., 33 USC §408). In particular, USACE must make a final approval or disapproval no more than 180 days after the date of the receipt of the completed application.
Second, it requires federal agencies to initiate early on, expedite, coordinate, and quickly resolve issues concerning environmental review, particularly those required under the National Environmental Policy Act. Most extraordinarily, the Act imposes monetary penalties, taken from the agency’s fund, if the federal agency responsible for the required approval or decision for the environmental review in fact delays the decision.