Legal Alerts

U.S. Army Corps Announces Regulatory Program “Modernization” Plan

Washington D.C. (June 17, 2022) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Army recently announced plans to amend the Corps Civil Works program to better serve Indian nations and other disadvantaged and underserved communities. 87 Fed. Reg. 33758 (June 3, 2022). Comments are due by August 2, 2022.

Several items warrant attention. The first are changes to Corps regulations on implementation of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA, or the Act) (33 CFR 325, Appendix C). Proposed options include suspension of the Corps’ Appendix C regulations and adoption of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s (ACHP) regulations. Congress established the ACHP, an independent agency whose mission is to provide the President and Congress with advice as to policies and programs on historical preservation. The NHPA authorized the Council to promulgate regulations establishing procedures for evaluating the effect of a federal action on historic property. The Act also provides that a federal agency may promulgate its own regulations, consistent with the Council’s regulations. Where an agency has its own regulations, courts have consistently held that the agency’s regulations govern decision-making, provided they are not inconsistent with the Part 800 regulations. Most courts have generally regarded an agency’s regulations as inconsistent when they are less restrictive procedurally than the Council’s. Until today, the Corps has defended Appendix C and interim guidance (issued in 2005 and 2007) as consistent with the NHPA and specifically tailored for use in the Corps regulatory program. The announcement marks a significant directional change and gives the ACHP a larger role in Corps regulatory decisions.

The Corps “modernization” effort includes revisions to regulatory program policy guidance in the areas of Tribal consultation and environmental justice. Included are plans to update its 2012 Tribal Consultation Policy. Proposed changes include requiring the Corps to provide a written response to Tribes on how Tribal input was considered in the decision and a requirement for Tribal consultation on approved jurisdictional determinations. In addition, the Corps will issue guidance on how to incorporate consideration of environmental justice in the regulatory program.

The modernization plan previews a substantial overhaul of the Corps regulatory program with far-reaching implications for businesses that need permits for development projects or to operate or expand their operations. 

For more information on this topic, contact the author of this alert. Visit our Environment, Land, & Natural Resources Law Practice page for additional alerts in this area.


Karen C. Bennett, Partner

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