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Green Delaware Action Alert #100

US Army Corp of Engineers cooks the books?
(release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER))

Port Penn, DE.  June 16, 2001.   PEER is an outstanding organization that supports government employees who try to do their jobs.  It describes itself as follows:

"Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals
who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country."  See http://www.peer.org/index.html

There's a long-running controversy over whether the Delaware River should be deepened from 40 to 45 feet.  The US Army Corp of Engineers is promoting this project, and held a "workshop" June 6th in Dover, DE.  An interesting development was that Motiva, the operators of the oil refinery that is Delaware's biggest single polluter, came out against the deepening.  This
is interesting because some of the presumed benefit has involved more heavily loaded oil tankers being able to proceed up the Delaware.  The Corps says it will provide "clean sand" for beach replenishment in Delaware, but others worry that this would turn out to be contaminated, stinky, black muck.  (Green Delaware Challenged the Corps' District Engineer, LTC Brown, to "do something more useful" and help clean up the Wilmington sewer system, which dumps raw sewage into the Delaware Estuary. Col. Brown promised us a response, which we are awaiting with interest.)

The project is being partially funded by Delaware taxpayers--but so far as we know no money as been turned over and the commitment could be withdrawn.  Former Gov. Tom Carper supported the dredging, but current Gov. Ruth Ann Minner has so far been non-committal.  The project requires a"subaqueous lands" permit from Delaware, and the state will hold a formal
public hearing later this year.  (We'll announce the date with we know.)

Why would a military organization dredge the Delaware River?  It seems to be a historical relic of the days when many American civil engineers were trained at West Point.  The Corp has a well-earned reputation for insensitivity to environmental concerns, and for "cooking the books" to justify projects that aren't really cost-effective.  On September 18, 2000, Green Delaware wrote to the Corps about another project:  "... These days we are receiving complaint after complaint, and report after report, casting doubt on the competence and integrity of the Corps of
Engineers.  We hear allegations of conflict of interest, pressuring of employees, and pandering to political considerations.  These reports are damaging the reputation of the United States Army and the Department of Defense. ..."  According to PEER things apparently haven't changed: (This release does not refer to the Delaware deepening project as such.)

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Thursday, June 14, 2001
Corps Still "Cooking the Books" on Economic Studies
Contact: Jessica V. Revere (202) 265-7337
Forecasts Grossly Inflated to Justify Construction

Washington, D.C.--Three months after the agency was rocked by scandals involving senior officers who manipulated economic studies, the Commander of the Corps of Engineers submitted a trumped up analysis of barge traffic forecasts to Congress, according to a report written by Corps economists and released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Lt. General Robert Flowers offered the internal analysis to Congress as proof that Corps forecasts are unbiased, but the review by the Corps own specialists shows just the opposite.

Most significantly, the PEER report charges that Corps construction plans are based on inflated estimates of future barge traffic on US rivers. The PEER reports cites the Corps own published documentation of actual traffic data that directly conflicts with Corps predictions, showing a doubling or tripling of barge traffic during in the next twenty years. Contrary to Gen. Flowers' congressional testimony, every one of the traffic forecasts examined in the internal Corps analysis and used by the Corps to justify construction of waterway projects exhibits significant overestimates of future inland waterway navigation traffic, according to a separate review by the agency's own economists. Moreover, the Corps analysis excluded all forecasts contradicting the General's false picture of forecasting accuracy.

In February, the National Academy of Sciences released a report chastising the Corps for distorting inputs to its economic models in order to justify large-scale construction. The National recommended that future Corps feasibility studies be subjected to real independent technical review.  According to Corps employees, Gen. Flowers ignored this and other recommendations of the National Academy and instead has launched an aggressive public relations campaign defending agency leadership.

"The Corps truly has become a rogue agency, dedicated solely to its own budget growth and sorely in need of genuine civilian oversight," commented  PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "The Corps learned nothing from the scandal of last year except for the dubious lesson that it should be more bald-faced when it lies."

A copy of the PEER report is available on request and will be posted on the PEER website: http://www.peer.org/fedenforce.html

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Alan J. Muller, Exec. Director
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Port Penn, DE 19731
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This page was last updated on  June 20, 2001.
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