Green Delaware Action Alert #100
Corp of Engineers cooks the books?
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
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
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could be withdrawn.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
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
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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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page was last updated on June 20, 2001.