Ecosystem Restoration Authorities

Ecosystem Restoration is one of the primary missions of the Corps of Engineers. The purpose of Corps ecosystem restoration activities is to restore significant ecosystem function, structure, and dynamic processes that have been degraded. Ecosystem restoration efforts involve an examination of the problems contributing to the system degradation, and the development of alternative means for their solution. The intent of restoration is to partially or fully reestablish the attributes of a natural, functioning, and self-regulating system. Restoration opportunities associated with wetlands, riparian, and other floodplain and aquatic systems are likely to be most appropriate for Corps involvement. Authorities through which the Corps can participate in the study, design and implementation of ecosystem restoration projects include:

  1. Section 206, Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration; 

  2. Section 1135, Project Modifications for Improvement of the Environment; 

  3. Section 204, Beneficial Uses of Dredged Material; and 

  4. Studies specifically authorized by Congress, pursued under Investigations. The Corps of Engineers also implements projects under the Estuary Restoration Act.

The purpose of the Section 206, Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration this authority is to develop aquatic ecosystem restoration and protection projects that cost effectively improve the quality of the environment, and are in the public interest.

The Section 1135, Project Modifications for Improvement of the Environment authority provides for the review and modification of structures and operations of water resources projects constructed by the Corps for the purpose of improving the quality of the environment. Projects must be feasible, consistent with the authorized project purposes, and improve the quality of the environment in the public interest. In addition, if a Corps water resources project has contributed to the degradation of the quality of the environment, restoration measures may be implemented at the project site or at other locations that have been affected by the construction or operation of the project, if such measures do not conflict with the authorized project purposes.

The purpose of the Section 204Beneficial Uses of Dredged Material authority is to carry out projects for the protection, restoration, and creation of aquatic and ecologically related habitats, including wetlands, in connection with dredging for construction, operation, or maintenance of a Corps of Engineers authorized navigation project.

Investigations and projects to address ecosystem restoration objectives may be undertaken in response to either a study specific or standing authority provided by the Congress. Study-specific authorizations may be provided in resolutions from the House Committee on Infrastructure and Transportation, or the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Ecosystem restoration projects must be consistent with the requirements of the authorization.

The purpose of the Estuary Restoration Act, as amended, (ERA) is to promote the restoration of estuary habitat; to develop a national Estuary Habitat Restoration Strategy for creating and maintaining effective partnerships within the Federal government and with the private sector; to provide Federal assistance for and promote efficient financing of estuary habitat restoration projects; and to develop and enhance monitoring, data sharing, and research capabilities. The ERA authorizes a program under which the Secretary of the Army (through the Corps of Engineers) may carry out projects and provide technical assistance to meet the restoration goal.

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Ecosystem Restoration Projects