A little-known and little-understood program at the Charleston District is known as “Inspection of Completed Works.” But what is it, and more importantly, why do we do it?
The District has been a presence in South Carolina since the late 1800’s and has been responsible for civil engineering projects both small and large. Many are familiar with projects like the previous deepenings of Charleston Harbor and the maintenance that has been going on for more than 140 years. Other projects throughout the state, including flood control and ecosystem restoration, may be lesser known to people who do not live near them, but nonetheless provide valuable benefits to the state and the nation.
After each of these projects is built, what’s left to do? Remember, the federal government and the project’s sponsor spent a lot of money to complete the project. Because so much has been invested, it is prudent to ensure the projects are being adequately maintained. And that’s where the ICW program comes in.
Each year, the District will inspect up to 24 completed federal projects. Projects need to be well maintained not only so they provide the expected benefits but also so these projects can be eligible for federal funds to repair the project if it is damaged by a natural disaster. Of the projects inspected, the majority are well-maintained by the sponsor.
Occasionally, sponsors fail to keep their project in good working condition. These projects are put on notice to bring it back up to standard within a reasonable amount of time. If not done, the District can move in to correct the condition at the sponsor’s expense. Fortunately, this does not happen very often.
“The ICW program also provides the avenue to allow sponsors to do work near or within the existing projects. There are Army regulations that apply whenever government funds are expended to ensure that changes to a completed project will not adversely affect its function and that the project works as designed for its lifespan,” said Lisa Metheney, assistant chief of programs and project management. “The District receives several requests a year for proposed projects along completed federal project footprints.”
Annual inspections provide intangible benefits as well. When the District meets with the sponsors each year, it demonstrates in a visible way to the public that we stand behind our work, and that we take stewardship of government and sponsor funds seriously. These visits also give the District the opportunity to look out and listen for additional problems and issues that local governments are having with water and water related resources, and identify if the Corps can assist in reducing or eliminating these problems in the future.
So despite being relatively unknown, the ICW keeps federal projects maintained and working properly, something that benefits everyone.