Our Work on Water Resource Management

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Water Resource Development Act


Nothing is more important to wildlife than abundant and clean water. When rivers, wetlands, lakes and shorelines are healthy, wildlife thrives. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plays the biggest role in managing these water resources. The Corps is responsible for thousands of water projects across the nation, including building dams, managing river levels, building levees for river barges and flood protection and restoring ecosystems.

National Wildlife Federation coordinates the Water Protection Network to ensure that water projects and polices are wildlife friendly, plus cost effective and environmentally safe.

How Corps Projects Impact Wildlife and People

The Corps has three primary missions: improving navigation, flood control, and ecosystem restoration. But these missions sometimes come into conflict. For example, the Corps often uses river training structures, such as dykes and jetties, to facilitate navigation—yet these structures increase flood heights, damaging both homes and wildlife habitat.

Deer in flooded Mississippi River

The proposed St. John’s New Madrid Levee Project—which has the largest impact on wetlands of any current federal project —would impact 50,000 acres of important wetlands with devastating consequences to fish and wildlife resources, and exposing communities to greater flood risk.

During the past 100 years, structural Corps projects have wreaked havoc on the nation’s fish and wildlife resources while flood damages have increased at an alarming rate, despite construction of many federal flood damage reduction projects.

Species at Risk....

Black Bear

Louisiana Black Bear

Threatened Louisiana black bears live in wetlands along the Mississippi River, but their remaining habitats have repeatedly come under risk of destruction by Corps construction projects. Find out more >>

Swamp Rabbit

Swamp Rabbit

The swamp rabbit is a wetland dweller of the southeastern U.S. They are imperiled due to the draining and conversion of their habitat. Find out more about threatened swamp rabbits >>

Least Tern

Least Tern

Dams, reservoirs and other changes to river systems have eliminated most habitat of the endangered interior list tern and caused their endangered listing since 1985. Recovery is only likely if their habitat can be restored. Learn more about the Floodway >>

Take Action

Take Action

Speak up to protect the wetland habitat that black bears and other wildlife depend on >>

National Wildlife Federation is Working On:

Corps Modernization
We want to ensure that environmental protection and restoration are top priorities for water project planning, and encourage the Corps to use non-structural approaches whenever possible. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and ever-increasing extreme weather events, it is critical to preserves natural ecosystems and barriers around our water resources.

Low impact solutions—like reconnecting rivers with floodplains, and other nonstructural restoration measures—are more cost effective and efficient for protecting people, wildlife, and the many businesses that rely on healthy rivers, coasts, and wetlands.

Water Resource Development Act (WRDA)
Congresses uses the Water Resources Development Act to guide Army Corps policy and authorize planning projects. Passed every few years (most recently in 2007), the Act has a huge impact on wildlife and habits. NWF staff work for the inclusion of our Corps modernization policies and restoration projects whenever the Act comes before Congress.

The Water Resource Development Act of 2013

The Water Resources Development Act affects all wildlife that depends on healthy rivers, floodplains, and wetlands by authorizing the federal government to study, plan, and construct major civil works water projects. The Senate recently passed its version of the bill and the House of Representatives is poised to do the same. While the Senate bill authorizes important restoration projects for the Florida Everglades and Coastal Louisiana, it also significantly weakens critical environmental reviews of large water projects, like dams and levees. If the Senate “streamlining” provisions become law, wildlife will lose critical protections. 

We need your help to ensure that the House of Representatives does not include the same harmful “streamlining” provisions in their version of the Water Resources Development Act. The House should instead pass a bill that helps wildlife by including provisions that: 

  • Require the Corps to use low impact, nonstructural and restoration measures where they can provide an appropriate level of protection and benefits;

  • Require the Corps to manage major Corps projects under modern operating plans; and

  • Require the Corps to follow the recommendations of the nation’s fish and wildlife experts to help minimize the harm to the nation’s wildlife from new water projects. 

Environmental reviews have been blamed for delaying Corps projects but research makes clear that this is not true.  Delays in Corps projects are caused by limited funding, a more than $60 billion project backlog, and the Corps’ stubborn refusal to use readily available low impact solutions instead of planning highly destructive large scale construction projects. Environmental reviews protect wildlife, make projects better, and save taxpayer dollars. 

Take Action today to help ensure that the water bill helps wildlife, like the Black Bear, have healthy waters now and into the future!

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