US Army Corp of Engineers, Continuing Authorities Program, Section 103

During the Study Session hosted by the Pacifica City Council on February 10th, one of the possible funding sources that was discussed was an Army Corp of Engineers program called “Section 103”. You can see Section 103 for yourself here, or hit the More link below for the full text.

After passing a pre-selection assessment, a municipality can request a feasibility study. The first $100K of the study is fully Federally funded, but all work after that is paid in a cost sharing arrangement with the local municipality responsible for 35% to 50% of the total, and a cap of $3 million.

The sense at the Study Session was that no solution that might require funds from Pacifica could be considered. It is possible that the Army Corp of Engineers could start a study with no promise of actually doing the work, as was reported in the Feb. 18 Pacifica Tribune story on Cliff issues explored in city study session; Agencies offer assistance explaining procedures and permits. This seemed unworkable at the Study Session, though I suppose nothing was ultimately ruled out.

The full text of Section 103, surprisingly readable, follows:



Section 103 of the River and Harbor Act of 1962, as amended, provides authority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to plan, design, and construct projects to protect public or private properties and facilities against damages caused by storm driven waves and ocean currents. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers adopts a project for construction after detailed investigation clearly shows the engineering feasibility and economic justification of the project. Projects are formulated for hurricane and storm damage reduction.

Studies are required to evaluate potential projects. Each project selected must be complete within itself. It also must be environmentally acceptable and economically justified; that is, benefits resulting from constructing a project must exceed the cost incurred to construct the project. In addition, each project is limited to a total Federal cost of not more than $3 million, including all project-related costs for feasibility studies, planning, engineering, and construction supervision and administration.


The feasibility study phase involves all planning and engineering activities required to formulate and evaluate a project. The first $100,000 of the feasibility study phase is at all Federal cost, with additional feasibility studies cost-shared 50 percent Federal and 50 percent non-Federal.


The non-Federal sponsor must provide all lands, easements, relocations, rights-of-way, and borrow or disposal areas. Costs assigned to protection of federally owned property are 100 percent Federal. Costs assigned to protection of privately owned, undeveloped lands and shores that are not open to the public are 100 percent non-Federal. Costs assigned to areas where criteria for public uses are met are 35 percent non-Federal.


Before a solution is implemented, formal assurance of local cooperation must be furnished by a local sponsoring agency. The local sponsor must be a municipality or public agency fully authorized under state law to give such assurances and financially capable of fulfilling all measures of local cooperation. Sponsoring agency must normally agree to:

  1. Provide cash contribution ranging from 35 percent to 100 percent of project implementation costs.
  2. Provide without cost to the United States all land, easements, relocations, rights-of-way, and borrow or disposal areas (LERRD’s) necessary for construction and subsequent operation and maintenance of the project.
  3. Hold and save the United States free from claims for damages that may result from construction and subsequent maintenance of the project, except damages due to the fault or negligence of the United States or its contractors.
  4. Assure that water pollution that would endanger the health of bathers will not be permitted where the beach is used for recreational purposes.
  5. Assure continued public ownership or continued public use of the shore upon which the amount of Federal participation is based, and assure its administration for public use during the economic life of the project.
  6. Assure maintenance and repair and local share of periodic beach nourishment, where applicable during the useful life of the project as may be required to serve the project’s intended purpose.
  7. Assume full responsibility for all project costs in excess of the Federal cost limitation of $3 million.


An investigation under Section 103 may be initiated after receipt of a formal request from the prospective sponsoring agency. An example of an acceptable resolution is given below. This request and any further inquiries concerning a beach erosion control project should be made directly to:

Chief, Planning Services Section
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wilmington
69 Darlington Avenue
Wilmington, North Carolina 28403

Bus. (910) 251-4926         Fax (910) 251-4744


Be it resolved that the (City Council, Town Council, County Board of Commissioners, etc.) requests the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct investigations and studies to determine the feasibility of developing a shore and beach erosion control project at (location) under the authority provided by Section 103 of the River and Harbor Act of 1962, as amended.

The first $100,000 of the feasibility phase study will be at all Federal cost, with any additional feasibility studies cost-shared 50 percent Federal and 50 percent non-Federal. The (City Council, etc.) can provide 50 percent of the feasibility study phase cost in excess of $100,000, all of which may consist of in-kind services.

It is understood that, if it is found feasible and advisable to develop a beach erosion control project at (location), the (City Council, etc.) would be required, before construction commences, to enter into a contractual agreement that it will provide such local cooperation as may be prescribed by the Secretary of the Army.

The (Clerk, Secretary, etc.) of the (City Council, etc.) shall be, and is hereby, directed to transmit three copies of this resolution to the District Engineer at the address listed above.

Signed (Mayor, Board Chairman, etc.)

For a complete chronology and links to many more photos see Evacuation underway at 330 Esplanade:

See all of my pictures of the Esplanade crisis:

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