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News Archives - 2012

Photo of Climate Change Adaptation Pilots
Map of Locaitons Location Map for the Responses to Climate Change Adaptation Pilot Studies
Photo of Missouri RiverMissouri River Mountain Snowpack Accumulation and Runoff Pilot Study
Photo of Spreader CanalApplication of Sea-Level Change Guidance to C-111 Spreader Canal, Florida (Credit: Taylor Slough)
Graph of Cedar Rapids IowaClimate Modeling and Stakeholder Engagement to Support Adaptation in the Iowa-Cedar Watershed

Climate Change Pilots Support Mainstreaming Adaptation

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is working toward mainstreaming climate change adaptation across activities. This will enhance the resilience of our nation’s water resources infrastructure, which will in turn reduce our vulnerabilities to the effects of climate change. One way that USACE is improving our knowledge about climate change impacts and adaptation is by conducting targeted pilot studies. These studies test new ideas and advance knowledge needed to develop policy and guidance.

Each pilot study addresses a central question that can help guide USACE in this endeavor. For instance, questions such as these have been asked:

  • How do we allow for shoreline retreat to preserve critical tidal and nearshore ecosystems in a long-term regional planning context?
  • Is mountain snowpack and subsequent runoff changing due to changes in climate, and is the Missouri River Basin, therefore, more susceptible to droughts and floods?
  • How will dredging cost requirements at Great Lakes harbors vary in the future as the climate potentially changes precipitation regimes and runoff characteristics?
  • How do we facilitate well-designed and inclusive multi-stakeholder collaboration with the local decision makers for the purpose of identifying vulnerability to sea-level change impacts, acceptable levels of risk, and the most acceptable alternatives over the project lifecycle?

One of the most important lessons learned to date is that establishing a policy, no matter how broad, reduces the time and cost of adaptation. Another lesson is that adaptation requires actionable science, not just the best available science. USACE has also learned from these pilots that costs and benefits are dynamic. They will change over time, just as climate does.

Why does USACE need to understand and adapt to climate change and vulnerability? The USACE Civil Works Program and associated water resources infrastructure represent a tremendous Federal investment that supports public safety and local and national economies. The hydrologic and coastal processes underlying water resources management are very sensitive to changes in climate and weather.

USACE has posted a compilation of the Climate Change Adaptation Pilots that are currently underway on its Responses to Climate Change website. Through these pilots USACE is developing and testing alternative adaptation strategies. The compilation includes a location map for the pilot studies, summarizes connections to the work being done by the multi-agency Climate Change and Water Working Group, and presents a fact sheet about each study that includes background information, vulnerable Civil Works business areas, the central question addressed by the pilot, study approach, lessons learned, key results, and where to go for more information.

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posted December 4, 2012

National Research Council Updates Sea-Level Change Report for West Coast

Graphic of Observed sea-level trends (NOAA), Coastal Vulnerability Index (USGS), USACE Projects, and Port Tonnage on map of Population Density (Census)

The National Research Council has updated its influential report from 1987 (Responding to Changes in Sea Level: Engineering Implications) to address new information for the West Coast (California, Oregon, and Washington). The update, titled "Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present and Future," was sponsored by USACE along with the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the states of California, Oregon and Washington through the West Coast Governors' Alliance on Ocean Health. The new report continues the approach of the 1987 report in recommending a multiple scenario approach to deal with key uncertainties. This new report is compatible with existing USACE guidance (see Engineer Circular 1165-2-212, Sea-Level Change Considerations for Civil Works Programs.)

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posted June 25, 2012


Short-Term Water Management Decisions Review Draft Released

The Climate Change and Water Working Group (CCAWWG) has released a draft document for review entitled "Short-Term Water Management Decisions: User Needs for Improved Climate, Weather, and Hydrologic Information." The draft document has been written by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service.

The goal of the document is to focus future research and development activities on solutions that will support short-term decision making in water resources management. The document communicates the scope and context of water management decisions, and available information, with considerations of future climate, weather, and hydrologic with outcomes less than five years in the future. The needs of a wide geographic and administrative scope of operators from both Reclamation and USACE are communicated through their own voices and needs statements.

Through the information acquired a set of needs statement are provided to focus the research and development community across four primary need types:

  • Monitoring Products
  • Forecast Products
  • Understanding on Product Relationships and Utilization in Water Management
  • Information Services Enterprise

The draft report, released on May 22, 2012 seeks additional perspectives from a wide range of interagency national groups, Federal agencies, and non-Federal organizations. Perspectives are requested to be received by June 22, 2012.

This document is the second in a series of reports by CCAWWG. The first report, released in January 2011, entitled "Addressing Climate Change in Long-Term Water Resources Planning" focused on decisions considering climate more than five years in the future. More information can be found at

More about CCAWWG and IWR's Climate and Global Change Team

CCAWWG provides engineering and scientific collaborations in support of water management under a changing climate. It is an effective working-level forum among Federal agencies that fosters communication, operational and research partnerships around user needs across the water resources and science communities of practice. IWR's Climate and Global Change team represents USACE IWR on the CCAWWG team. Members of the IWR team were among the authors of this report and include Kate White, PhD, David Raff, PhD, and Jeff Arnold.

posted May 30, 2012


Climate and Global Change Team Contributes to Water Resources National Action Plan

Graphic of Observed sea-level trends (NOAA), Coastal Vulnerability Index (USGS), USACE Projects, and Port Tonnage on map of Population Density (Census)

Council on Environmental Quality's Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force 2011 National Action Plan (pdf, 27.8 MB)

The Council on Environmental Quality’s Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force recently released its 2011 progress report and the final National Action Plan (NAP): Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate. USACE IWR’s Climate and Global Change team contributed to writing the plan and led the team that developed integrated water resources management (IWRM) recommendations. The goal of the NAP is that “Government agencies and citizens collaboratively manage freshwater resources in response to a changing climate in order to ensure adequate water supplies, to safeguard human life, health and property, and to protect water quality and aquatic ecosystems.” The plan includes six recommendations:

  • Establish a planning process to adapt water resources management to a changing climate;
  • Improve water resources and climate change information for decision-making;
  • Strengthen assessment of vulnerability of water resources to climate change;
  • Expand freshwater use efficiency;
  • Support integrated water resources management (IWRM, USACE lead); and
  • Support training and outreach to build capability to adapt to climate change.

The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), is the USACE representative to the task force. IWR’s Climate and Global Change Team supports Ms. Darcy on several of the task force’s efforts.

USACE is leading the interagency team that will implement three integrated water resources management (IWRM) actions in the NAP, including:

  • Action 17: “Work with States and interstate bodies (e.g., River Basin Commissions) to incorporate IWRM into planning and programs, paying particular attention to climate change adaptation issues.”
  • Action 19: “Working with States, review flood risk management and drought management planning to identify “best practices” to prepare for hydrologic extremes.” The USACE Silver Jackets program is specifically mentioned as a proactive effort to better coordinate flood risk management.
  • Action 20: “Develop benchmarks for incorporating adaptive management into water project designs, operational procedures, and planning strategies.”

USACE is co-leading one action on climate training for water managers with the Bureau of Reclamation and NOAA:

  • Action 21: “Establish a core training program on climate change science for local, Tribal, and State water resources managers.” A climate change training program for water managers started as an initiative of the Climate Change and Water Working Group (CCAWWG), of which USACE is a founding agency member. The Responses to Climate Change Program team is participating in the development of this training.

Additionally, USACE is co-leading three actions concerned with climate and water data that will provide an opportunity to integrate other Federal sources of data and tools with the Federal Support Toolbox:

  • Action 6: “Provide coastal states/communities with information to identify areas likely to be inundated by sea level rise.”
  • Action 9: “Develop a Federal internet portal to provide information on water resources and climate change.”
  • Action 16: “Enhance coordination among current Federal water efficiency programs and create a toolbox of key practices.”

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Reviewed 20 June 2016

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