Freedom of Information Act

The FOIA is a federal law that establishes the public's right to request existing records from Federal Government agencies. The purpose of this website is to provide guidance on how to make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records from the St. Paul District of the Army Corps of Engineers (District). It will provide you with a brief description of your rights and the manner in which the District will respond to your requests.

 Format of a FOIA Request

No special form is required to submit a FOIA request. However, the request should be labeled as a "Freedom of Information Act Request," and must include the following information:

1. Name and Business name (if applicable)
2. Address
3. Telephone number
4. Fax number (if applicable)
5. A reasonable description of the records requested, including date parameters, if applicable
6. State a willingness to pay any search and review fees
7. If you are requesting a fee waiver, you must state your basis for the waiver

[Sample FOIA request letter]

 Submitting a FOIA Request

FOIA requests can be submitted by mail, fax, or email.

To mail a FOIA request, send the request to the following address:

St. Paul District Office of Counsel (CEMVP-OC)
ATTN: FOIA Coordinator
332 Minnesota St., Suite E1500
St. Paul, Minnesota 55101

To send a FOIA request by electronic mail, address the request to:

 The Process for Responding to a Request

Upon receipt of your request, the District will reply with a letter providing a tracking number so that you will be able to check on the status of your request. Whenever possible, an initial determination to release or deny a record will be made within 20 working days after receipt of the request by the official who is designated to respond. Because of the significant number of requests received, in fairness to all requesters, the St. Paul District processes requests in the order of their receipt and according to their complexity. If unusual circumstances exist that preclude a timely response, you will be informed of the estimated completion date and reason(s) for delay.

Possible unusual circumstances include:

• The need to search for and collect the requested records from other facilities that are separate from the office determined responsible for a release or denial decision on the requested information
• The need to search for, collect, and examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are requested in a single request
• The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with other agencies having a substantial interest in the determination of the request, or among two or more DOD Components having a substantial subject-matter interest in the request.
 Expediting the Processing of a Request

To receive expedited processing, which prioritizes a request over other pending requests, the requester must demonstrate one of the following compelling needs:

• Failure to obtain the records on an expedited basis could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual;

• Information is urgently needed by an individual primarily engaged in disseminating information in order to inform the public concerning actual or alleged federal government activity;

• An imminent loss of substantial due process rights; or

• Failure to obtain the requested information on an expedited basis could reasonably be expected to harm substantial humanitarian interests.

A requester seeking expedited processing must submit a statement, certified to be true and correct, explaining in detail the basis for making the request for expedited processing. This certified statement must be sent with the request for expedited processing for the request to be considered and responded to within the 10 calendar days required for decisions on expediting.

 Agency Records

The FOIA allows the public to request “agency records”. Agency records are documents that are created or obtained by an agency and under the agency control at the time the FOIA request is made. Agency records can be in the form of hard-copy files, computerized records, databases, email maps, books, or photographs. However, the FOIA does not require federal agencies to answer questions, render opinions, or provide subjective evaluations in response to a FOIA request.


 Legal Review
After the responsive documents have been identified and compiled, they must undergo legal review before being released to ensure that no private or sensitive information is being released. All private or sensitive information will be withheld or redacted before the documents are released. If you believe that information has improperly been withheld, you will have the opportunity to appeal the District’s administrative determination.
 FOIA Fees
The FOIA allows fees to be charged for FOIA services, such as search and review time, duplication costs, and special services, like document certification. Whether fees are charged depends on the category of requester you are. If fees are to be charged, waivers or reductions in fees may be given under certain circumstances. In any case, no fees are charged for searches that take less than two hours and fewer than 100 pages of duplication.
 Fee Waivers
Fee waivers may be granted when disclosure of the records is in the public interest. Information released in the public interest is defined as information that significantly enhances the public's knowledge of the operations and activities of the agency. The following factors are weighed in
making a fee waiver determination:

• The subject of the request
• The informative value of the information to be disclosed
• The contribution to an understanding of the subject by the general public likely to result from the disclosure
• The significance of the contribution to public understanding
• Disclosure of the information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester
• The ability of the requester to disseminate the information.
 Willingness to Pay Fees

All requesters must include a "willingness to pay fees” statement in their request, regardless of the fee category. The requester can set a limit on the costs to be incurred.

 Categories of Requesters
There are five categories of requesters:

1. Commercial. Requesters who seek information for a use or purpose that furthers their commercial, trade, or profit interest are considered commercial requesters. Commercial requesters pay all fees for search, review, and duplication.

2. Educational. Institutions of education, including preschools, elementary or secondary schools and institutions of higher learning, qualify as educational institutions. The records must be sought in furtherance of scholarly research. Educational requesters pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that fees are waived or reduced in the public interest.

3. Non-Commercial Scientific. A non-commercial scientific institution is operated solely for conducting scientific research. The records must be sought in furtherance of scientific research. Like educational requesters, these requesters pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that fees are waived or reduced in the public interest.

4. News Media. A representative of the news media is a person actively gathering news for an entity organized and operated to publicize or broadcast news to the public. News media pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that fees are waived or reduced in the public interest.

5. "Other" Requester. Requesters who do not qualify in another category are considered "other" requesters, and normally make requests for agency records for their personal use.
 Useful FOIA Links

Contact the FOIA Officer

MVP FOIA Coordinator
(651) 290-5238

MVP FOIA Officer
(651) 290-5538



U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20314-1000
Phone: 202-761-8557
Fax: 202-761-0270