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Planning for Climate Change in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Created: 12/18/2010 - Updated: 5/08/2019

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Summary

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) is responsible for a range of duties as a federal agency, including public engineering and public works projects vital to the country and the Department of Defense. Climate change is expected to significantly affect public infrastructure. The ACE is preparing for climate change by coordinating with other water resource management agencies and incorporating climate change into its internal projects, programs, and policies.

Background

The ACE’s mission is to “provide public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen [the United States’] security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters.” Within its purview are a number of activities at risk from the impacts of climate change; these activities include flood control and protection, beach nourishment, dredging, ecosystem restoration, and design and management of military facilities.

Implementation

The ACE has been engaged with a number of climate change-related activities, including collaboration with other federal agencies on water resources management, incorporating sea level rise into planning and siting design standards, and creating a climate change response program to guide internal action.

Interagency Workgroup on Climate Change and Water Resources. Along with the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the ACE formed a working group to address water resources management in the face of climate change. The group produced Climate Change and Water Resources Management: A Federal Perspective in 2009, which describes climate change impacts on water resources and identifies gaps needed to improve management strategies.

Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) Working Group. The ACE is part of the CRWU Working Group, which along with representatives from water utilities, state and local governments, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and NOAA, is working to evaluate and improve the CRWU Program. The program provides the water utilities sector with tools to prepare for climate change by developing adaptation plans.

Incorporating Sea Level Rise into Planning and Siting Design Standards. The ACE, along with scientists from NOAA and USGS, developed guidelines on how to incorporate sea level rise into Civil Works Projects (Circular 1165-2-211) in 2009. The document describes a procedure for engineers to estimate low, medium, and high sea level rise projections for the local area; these estimates will then be used in the design process to make infrastructure more resilient to sea level rise.

Responses to Climate Change (RCC) Program (www.corpsclimate.us). The mission of the RCC Program is to “develop, implement, and assess adjustments or changes in operations and decision environments to enhance resilience or reduce vulnerability of [ACE] projects, systems, and programs to observed or expected changes in climate.” The RCC Program Team has developed demonstration projects to support adaptation efforts. These projects focus on assessing regional climate impacts, identifying adaptation challenges and opportunities, assessing the vulnerability of ACE projects to climate change, and improving climate change communication efforts, among others.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The ACE is responsible for the design and management of public engineering services in the United States. The ACE is actively working to address climate change by collaborating with other federal agencies and developing adaptation strategies and options to prepare internal projects and programs for the impacts of climate change.

Status

Information collected through publications. Last updated December 2010

Citation

Gregg, R. M. (2010). Planning for Climate Change in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [Case study on a project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/planning-climate-change-us-army-corps-... (Last updated December 2010)

Project Contacts

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approximately 34,000 dedicated Civilians and Soldiers delivering engineering services to customers in more than 90 countries worldwide.

Keywords

Sector Addressed: 
Disaster Risk Management
Land Use Planning
Transportation / Infrastructure
Water Resources
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Air temperature
Erosion
Flooding
Flow patterns
Infrastructure damage
Landslides
Permafrost
Precipitation
Public health risks
Public safety threats
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Water quality
Water supply
Water temperature
Climate Type: 
Temperate
Subtropical
Subpolar
Timeframe: 
Ongoing
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Create new institutions
Increase organizational capacity
Coordinate planning and management
Invest in / Enhance emergency services planning and training
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Make infrastructure resistant or resilient to climate change
Governance and Policy
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations
Effort Stage: 
In progress

Related Resources

Climate Ready Water Utilities Program

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Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Water Resources
Summary: 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) Program provides tools and resources for water utilities to prepare for the effects of global climate change. A CRWU Working Group has been created to provide recommendations on the effectiveness of the program.

Sector Addressed: 
Development (socioeconomic)
Disaster Risk Management
Public Health
Rural / Indigenous Livelihoods
Tourism / Recreation
Transportation / Infrastructure
Water Resources
Sector Addressed: 
Disaster Risk Management
Land Use Planning
Transportation / Infrastructure

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