“In his classic book about federal water infrastructure, Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner said that the Corps has “ruined more wetlands than anyone in history, except perhaps its counterpart in the Soviet Union.”
The essay will be of interest to people who follow infrastructure issues, people looking for ways to cut spending, and people curious about the long history of bureaucratic mismanagement in the federal government.
The Corps is a federal agency that is involved in river navigation, flood control, seaport dredging, hydropower generation, beach replenishment, and many other activities. While the Corps has built some impressive structures, many of its projects have been economically or environmentally dubious.
The Corps’ activities often subsidize private interests, and they are too often determined by political factors not sound analysis. The agency has a history of distorting its cost-benefit analyses, and it has suffered major engineering failures, such as those contributing to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
Fortunately, most of the Corps’ activities do not need to be carried out by the federal government. The essay discusses those activities that could be either privatized or transferred to state and local governments.
At DownsizingGovernment.org, we put aside the “bedtime stories” about how programs are supposed to work, and instead focus on how they actually work in the real world. Federal infrastructure spending makes for good political sound bites, but the reality is much different, as decades of experience with the Army Corps illustrates.