Risk Assessment or Engineering Standards: Toward a Decision Framework

by Leonard Shabman, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Risk-Based Decision Making in Water Resources V


The Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) publishes manuals, some of which include rules to be followed in the planning of a water resources project. Some of their other manuals simply suggest a planning philosophy that should be followed. Also, informal rules are a part of the agency oral tradition. What can be asserted is that project planning, whether in response to formal or informal rules, implies a balance of cost against risk. Today, new analytical tools and computation technology offer promise for increased analysis of the risk-cost trade-off. As a result, there is increased pressure on ACE planners to do risk assessment. However, project planners and those who review the work for technical or budgetary reasons are both faced with a dilemma. A final project plan is the result of thousands of individual planning rules. It is analytically intractable to do risk analysis at all levels and stages of a plan; and, the number of project alternatives that could emerge from the various permutations and combinations of alternatives approaches infinity. There need to be priorities set for establishing what aspects of project planning will be the subject of a risk assessment. This priority setting will necessarily need to be done for each specific project situation. However, there also is a need to do such priority setting in the review and editing of formal field guidance manuals. This paper describes the challenges and offers a framework for setting risk assessment priorities.

Subject Headings: Water resources | Resource management | Risk management | Federal government | Construction costs | Computing in civil engineering | Budgets | Reviews | United States

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