Alexandria, VA (May 10, 2023) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Institute for Water Resources (IWR) participated in the kick-off of the project MANABAS COAST (MAinstreaming NAture BAsed Solutions through COASTal systems). The meeting took place March 11-17 in Hague, Netherlands. USACE is an official observer of MANABAS, which is a European Union project aimed at mainstreaming nature-based engineering solutions in the North Sea Region.
USACE utilizes a similar initiative in the U.S. known as “Engineering with Nature”, which seeks a related outcome of intentional alignment of natural and engineering processes to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental, and social benefits through collaboration. IWR’s participation allows for closer collaboration with like-minded nations who are participating as part of MANABAS and includes 16 pilot projects taking place in in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom.
IWR Environmental Planner, Bari Greenfeld represented USACE during the group’s international panel discussion about the enabling factors of implementing NBS. In her remarks Greenfeld provided USACE’s perspective on related efforts underway in the U.S. and the policy drivers, project examples, and innovative programs that bring the effort to fruition. Greenfeld also emphasized the value of international collaboration on the global topic. “The U.S. and European Union have many shared goals and common challenges for adapting to climate change. Each nation is taking a slightly different approach – but that is when collaboration has the power to unlock growth and learning. MANABAS COAST is a valuable forum for sharing best practices and supporting each other as we seek to mainstream the use of nature-based solutions,” said Greenfeld.
United Kingdom participant and Senior Advisor of International Engagement for the country’s Environment Agency, Catherine Bacon, also highlighted the value of working with MANABAS countries, and alongside the U.S. during the event. “Joining the MANABAS meeting in March 2023 was an excellent opportunity to come together with international counterparts to discuss our approaches to mainstreaming NBS through coastal systems. The scale and pace of the changing climate and biodiversity crisis means we need to think and work in different ways and coming together to share views and best practice amongst international experts is key to this,” said Bacon.
Also in attendance was Dr. Alistair Rennie, Project Manager for the Scottish Government’s Dynamic Coast project, which is transforming how Scotland’s coastal communities improve their resilience and adapt to our future climate. “Climate change is affecting us all, but each of our experiences, funding arrangements and local circumstances are different. MANABAS Coast allows international perspectives to be shared and learnt from, to ensure we all can better use Nature-based approaches to improve our coastal resilience and adapt to climate change,” Rennie said.
“In Scotland, Dynamic Coast has shown that our natural coastal defences protect almost three times the value of assets protected by artificial defences. We need to learn how to better invest and improve our approaches to safeguard society and natural systems as part of the joint climate and nature crisis,” Rennie added.
IWR’s connection to MANABAS also extends beyond the coastal meeting and includes support for technical cooperation between USACE and the Dutch Rijkswaterstaat (RWS), which is the national water manager for the Netherlands. MANABAS Coast is managed by Matthijs Boersema, RWS lead, who is currently on a two-year detail with USACE IWR. This close coordination between the U.S. and the Netherlands is advancing efforts on how to mainstream NBS on an international scale. “I am happy we are starting this journey together to mainstream NBS. We know that NBS work, but we don’t have the clear answer yet how to move from the pilot scale to large scale implementation. Great to see so many enthusiastic people during the kick-off event, who are dedicated to sharing their experiences about how to move NBS forward,” said Boersema.
As part of the meeting, participants also toured several nature-based engineering projects and participated in small group exchanges to further the nature-based solution conversation.
USACE anticipates further participation in MANABAS Coast, which is a five-year project, during future collaborative events and knowledge exchanges. Insight from the European experience will also inform IWR’s own work to support mainstreaming nature-based solutions across USACE operations. Greenfeld and Boersema are helping a team at USACE Headquarters advance the conversation about mainstreaming and improve coordination among the agency’s NBS efforts. [Under IWR’s New Horizons program] Greenfeld and Boersema are engaged with USACE’s Environmental Advisory Board and will facilitate a workshop this summer to discuss a USACE-wide vision for mainstreaming nature-based solutions.