The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a measure July 23 that requires an outside panel to review certain Army Corps of Engineers projects. The provision was included in a larger bill that authorizes Corps' water resources projects.

The Water Resources and Development Act of 2003 was passed unanimously by voice vote. Specifically, the legislation authorizes construction of nine projects relating to flood damage reduction, navigation, hurricane and storm damage reduction and environmental restoration. It also authorizes a number of smaller projects in the Corps' civil works program. The Senate is not expected to consider a water resources bill until 2004.

"This legislation will allow the Corps of Engineers to provide crucial navigation improvements at harbors and waterways, flood damage reduction in our communities and coastal areas, and environmental restoration along the Nation's rivers and lakes," says Rep. John J. Duncan, chairman of the panel's water resources and environment subcommittee.

An amendment offered by Duncan and Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) will require projects costing more than $50 million to undergo a peer review of project studies. The peer review will only consider scientific and technical matters. The review will occur early in the study process and must end six months after the review panel is established. The chief of the Corps can exempt certain projects if they are not deemed controversial or do not have adverse impacts.

The Corps declined to comment on pending legislation.