Tribal Partnership Program (Section 203)


Authority for Tribal Partnership Program Section 203


Section 203 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, provides authority for the Corps in cooperation with Indian tribes and heads of other federal agencies to study and determine the feasibility of carrying out projects that will substantially benefit Indian tribes. The Tribal Partnership Program provides an opportunity to assist with water resources projects that address economic, environmental and cultural resource needs through studies that may include flood damage reduction, environmental restoration, and protection and preservation of natural and cultural resources. Upon request, the Corps will cooperate with tribes to study water resources projects and such other projects as determined appropriate, primarily located within tribal lands.

After a tribe requests a potential project, the Corps may conduct a Federal Interest Determination analysis to determine if there is a federal interest, subject to the availability of funds. If approved, a feasibility or watershed assessment study is initiated where costs are shared with the sponsor (tribe) according to a negotiated Study Cost Sharing Agreement (CSA). During the study potential solutions are identified, the costs, benefits and environmental impacts are analyzed, and a recommended project is developed. Any recommended future actions must then receive additional Congressional and Administration authorization for implementation.

A typical study includes planning levels of detail; they do not include detailed design for project construction. Although the studies are planning level products, they do provide tribes with the technical data and analysis needed to either prepare plans and specifications for implementation or to request implementation funds. Typical problems and opportunities studied under this program are related to: flood damage reduction, water supply, erosion or sedimentation control, ecosystem restoration, water quality, watershed planning, dam safety, community infrastructure, emergency management and preparedness, recreation, cultural resources protection, and environmental resources management.


Tribal officials from federally recognized Native American Indian Tribes who are interested in assistance for their communities under this program should contact the Corps. All feasibility study costs are shared by the federal government and a sponsor (subject to the ability to pay rule) in accordance with the Water Resources Development Act (as amended). All of the sponsor’s share may be provided as in-kind services as negotiated in the FCSA.


Projects are initiated by a letter requesting assistance to the Tribe's local USACE District Commander. Congress has authorized the Tribal Partnership Program for $5,000,000 annually. Each tribe would be limited to $1,000,000 per project per year. Coordination through Congressional contacts regarding specific appropriations would be necessary.