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Posted 12/18/2013

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By Ashley Roberts

Each year, regions across the country face the negative impacts of strong storms and subsequent flooding. There are success stories of flood walls holding back the rising waters, or levee systems protecting a neighborhood from severe flooding. But with each successful flood risk management project, there are towns that are devastated by rising flood waters because they lack the Congressional authorization to build a federal project necessary to protect their community. 

However, the Continuing Authorities Program (CAP), Section 205 is giving many communities throughout the Baltimore District hope that a small-scale flood risk management project is a possibility.

“Under the Continuing Authorities Program, the Corps can provide small-scale flood risk management projects without Congressional authorization,” said CAP Project Manager Tony Clark. “And we are beginning to see a number of communities from Windsor Borough, Pa. to West Pittston, Pa. take advantage of the opportunities CAP 205 provides.”

Specifically, section 205 of the Flood Control Act of 1948, as amended, gives the Corps authority to develop and construct small-scale flood risk management projects totaling $7 million or less. Projects being developed under this authority are often referred to as CAP 205 projects.

CAP 205 projects take a variety of shapes from flood walls and levees to flood warning systems, but all help communities better prepare for rising waters.

“Federal flood risk management projects are designed to manage major flooding risks by structural alternatives, nonstructural alternatives, or a combination of both,” said Clark. “CAP 205 projects focus mostly on local projects which could include structural solutions such as channel enlargement, realignment, or paving; obstruction removal; levee and wall construction; bank stabilization; and/or non-structural solutions such as a flood warning system.”

To begin a CAP 205 project, a town, or any non-Federal entity, must first formally request for the Corps to initiate a preliminary assessment. The preliminary assessment is 100 percent federally funded – up to $100,000. Upon completion of the preliminary assessment (which typically takes six months), the Corps determines whether there is Federal interest in the study area. If so, then the Corps moves forward with a feasibility study and development of the project, a process that can take anywhere from two to five years. Once a project is ready for construction, the project is cost shared between the Corps and the non-Federal sponsor, with the sponsor contributing at least 35 percent of the total project costs.

Four communities have sent in Letters of Request for new start CAP 205 studies in the last two years. Currently the Baltimore District is waiting on funding to initiate those new starts.

“The primary goal of this program is to reduce risk from flooding in smaller communities,” Clark said. “Whether it’s structural or non structural measures, the Corps can help communities identify ways to better prepare and plan for future storm events.”