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Flood Risk Management Program

In the Spotlight

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has issued a USACE Levee Portfolio Report that shares its current understanding of the portfolio of levee systems within the USACE Levee Safety Program. Managing this portfolio of levees requires an understanding of the flood risks associated with levees in the portfolio, the risk management approaches USACE uses to understand and manage these risks, and the roles of USACE, other federal agencies, states, tribes, regional districts, and local communities in assessing, managing, and communicating levee-related flood risk.

Since 2006, USACE has been working to establish a comprehensive inventory, inspection, and risk assessment of all levees within the levee portfolio. With the inventory and initial inspections complete, the first round of risk assessments on the entire portfolio is expected to be completed in 2018. This inventory, inspection, and risk assessment effort provides a more complete picture of the USACE levee portfolio: where levees are located (inventory); their physical condition (inspection); and the flood risk associated with the levees (assessment).

The report summarizes the best available information on the USACE levee portfolio, specifically to:

  • Promote a broader understanding of benefits and flood risks associated with the USACE levee portfolio for all stakeholders;

  • Provide a summary of risk factors associated with the USACE levee portfolio so that all those with levee responsibilities, including USACE, can make informed risk management decisions on programmatic investments such as policy and technical guidance, training, and research and development; and

  • Establish a baseline set of information on the USACE levee portfolio, including the collective risk across the portfolio, to enable future trends analysis.

The report serves as a useful tool to discuss the risks and benefits of the levees in the USACE portfolio both within USACE and with sponsors and stakeholders.

More in the Spotlight
 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has issued a USACE Levee Portfolio Report that shares its current understanding of the portfolio of levee systems within the USACE Levee Safety Program. Managing this portfolio of levees requires an understanding of the flood risks associated with levees in the portfolio, the risk management approaches USACE uses to understand and manage these risks, and the roles of USACE, other federal agencies, states, tribes, regional districts, and local communities in assessing, managing, and communicating levee-related flood risk.

Since 2006, USACE has been working to establish a comprehensive inventory, inspection, and risk assessment of all levees within the levee portfolio. With the inventory and initial inspections complete, the first round of risk assessments on the entire portfolio is expected to be completed in 2018. This inventory, inspection, and risk assessment effort provides a more complete picture of the USACE levee portfolio: where levees are located (inventory); their physical condition (inspection); and the flood risk associated with the levees (assessment).

The report summarizes the best available information on the USACE levee portfolio, specifically to:

  • Promote a broader understanding of benefits and flood risks associated with the USACE levee portfolio for all stakeholders;

  • Provide a summary of risk factors associated with the USACE levee portfolio so that all those with levee responsibilities, including USACE, can make informed risk management decisions on programmatic investments such as policy and technical guidance, training, and research and development; and

  • Establish a baseline set of information on the USACE levee portfolio, including the collective risk across the portfolio, to enable future trends analysis.

The report serves as a useful tool to discuss the risks and benefits of the levees in the USACE portfolio both within USACE and with sponsors and stakeholders.

This past October, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, along with State and local sponsors, hosted a ceremony to celebrate the completion of nearly a decade of planning and construction on a $900 million auxiliary spillway for Folsom Dam, located about 20 miles upstream on the American River from downtown Sacramento, California. “We have four major goals that our nation needs us to consistently achieve,” said LTG Todd Semonite, commanding general of the Corps of Engineers stated at the ceremony. “These goals are to support national security, deliver integrated water resource solutions, reduce disaster risk, and prepare for tomorrow. Right here in Folsom, the auxiliary spillway proudly stands as a tangible example of our commitment to advance all of these goals.”

The auxiliary spillway, also known as the Joint Federal Project or “JFP,” is a dual purpose project for both flood risk management and dam safety. It serves a critical component of the overall strategy and effort in reducing the flood risk from the American River to the Sacramento area, home to California’s capitol and a population of more than two million people.  The auxiliary spillway will allow more water to be released from Folsom Reservoir sooner during a major storm event, thereby reducing the peak flow released into the American River and increasing the ability of downstream levees to better handle potential flood events.

The JFP is the latest installment in risk reduction to California’s capital city. The breadth and complexity of the American River watershed necessitated multiple long-term studies looking at flood risk management issues in a systemwide context. For the JFP, this includes not just the existing Folsom Dam and dam operational changes but also the levee systems downstream.

The flood risk story of Sacramento began when the city was first established at the confluence of two major rivers during the height of the California Gold Rush in 1850. The American and Sacramento rivers were the major transportation corridors in this western frontier in a landscape that consisted of majestic riparian forests, abundant wetlands and massive floodplains that were frequently inundated. The region was known as the “Inland Sea”, a product of its location at the downstream end of large watersheds fed by surrounding mountains.  Flooding is part of a natural cycle of the region but as the population of Sacramento grew, the consequences of that flooding grew as well. 

Early residents constructed levees along the rivers but these levees frequently failed, causing catastrophic flooding within the fledgling community.  These events galvanized the community to work even harder to keep the flooding at bay by working with the State of California and the Corps of Engineers. Together, the State of California and the Corps of Engineers constructed a massive flood management system consisting of levees along the rivers and a network of bypasses in the low lying floodplain that would carry high flows away from the populated areas.  In the early to mid-1900s, numerous upstream reservoirs, including Folsom Dam on the American River, were constructed to further reduce the risk to downstream areas. 

The Sacramento population continues to grow and record flood events have occurred since Folsom Dam was completed in 1956.  Our understanding of levee performance over time and during flood events has allowed the Corps of Engineers to better understand flood risk and recommend improvements to the levees surrounding urban areas. The Corps has worked closely with the California Department of Water Resources and the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency on these recommendations, which recently culminated in several authorized studies for levee improvements in Natomas, West Sacramento and the American River Common Features Project for the City of Sacramento.

Sacramento will always be at risk of flooding, but continued, successful federal, state and local partnerships will help incrementally reduce the regional flood risk and associated consequences.

graphic of poster

Poster from the Dedication Ceremony of the Joint Federal Project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Coastal Engineering, is working on a project that will make the community of Port Monmouth more resilient during future storm flooding and surge.

Nestled in the Sandy Hook Bay, Port Monmouth has experienced flooding, blizzards, and major storms that have swept through the area throughout the years. Life-long Port Monmouth resident Charles Rogers reminisces about past storms that have battered the area and his experiences.

“My father placed me on his shoulders and walked through four feet of water to take me to my grandmother’s house during the hurricane of 1944,” said Rogers. The “1944 Great Atlantic hurricane” was a destructive and powerful tropical cyclone that swept across a large portion of the East Coast in September of that year. During Hurricane Donna in 1960, the area was evacuated, and Rogers and his entire family were transported by the U.S. Coast Guard via an amphibious vehicle to the firehouse to safety.

“In 2012, Hurricane Sandy placed almost four feet of water in my house and six feet in my cellar and we lost our heating, electric, food and personal items,” said Rogers. The outlook on future storms is much brighter for Rogers due to the Port Monmouth Flood Risk Management Project being performed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. “It’s an important project to protect Port Monmouth residents,” said Rogers.To help with resiliency, the Corps decided to include an environmentally friendly soil stabilization process that has never been used by the Corps before on a flood risk management project. The process makes the project stronger, improves the community’s quality of life, and saves tax-dollars.

The project area is made up of low lying salt and freshwater marsh and there are many residential and commercial structures sitting right on or near this marshland. Erosion over the years has removed much of the natural beachfront and dune complexes that provided coastal protection to the community from storm surge. Hurricane Sandy further exacerbated the problem by causing millions of dollars in damages, destroying 750 homes and businesses in Port Monmouth alone.

The project includes two phases of work that together will reduce the risk of flooding throughout the entire community. The first phase was completed in 2015 and provides storm risk reduction from the Sandy Hook Bay. This work included building up and widening the shoreline, constructing a 15-foot high protective dune – spanning a mile and half long, and constructing a new stone groin perpendicular to the shoreline. A groin structure extends out from the shore into the water and interrupts water flow and limits the movement of sand, to prevent beach erosion and increase resiliency. In addition, a fishing pier was extended 195 feet and walking paths were built to provide the public access to the beach area.

The second phase is in progress and will provide a line of defense surrounding Port Monmouth.  The work includes constructing a concrete floodwall – the length of almost 22 football fields – to reduce flooding from the Pews Creek to the west and the Compton Creek to the east.  Additional, pump stations, road closure gates, and a tide gate at Pews Creek will be constructed.

In addition, a system of levees will be constructed. The levees that are being constructed need a strong foundation. The land is made up of low lying salt and freshwater marsh that is not strong and very saturated, so this soil needs to be removed and replaced with better soil to construct upon.

“Typically, it’s cost effective to remove and replace the unsuitable soil, but in the New York and New Jersey region it’s a different story,” said David Gentile, project manager, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “In urban areas it’s hard to find disposal sites, so the soil would have to be picked up by trucks and transported to a location that can accept it and new more suitable soil trucked in, which is expensive, especially since we are moving a mountain of material,” said Gentile.

Gentile decided to move forward with a cost effective solution for the soil that has never been accomplished before by the Corps on a flood risk management project. This solution is a process called In Situ Soil Stabilization. Instead of removing and replacing the marsh soil, this process allows engineers to leave the soil where it is. A material, such as common Portland cement and water is mixed with the existing soil to strengthen the porous marsh soil, creating an impermeable foundation for a levee.

There are numerous benefits to this process, but the biggest benefactor is the surrounding community that sits just a few hundred feet from the project area. This process eliminates the need for over 1,750 tri-axle truck trips, carrying wet, mucky, and odorous material, through residential streets. Rogers an active member of the Port Monmouth community agrees, “When this process was put on the table it sounded good then.  Anytime you can use what is there and not have large truck loads of materials running up and down the roads you save money.  It’s a big plus for the project, the residents, and the environment.”

Ken Johnson, engineer with the Corps’ New York District, added, “Less trucks means the local roads and bridges are spared from possible damage, there is less air pollution, noise complaints are greatly reduced, and there is an overall savings of landfill space along with financial savings.”

Gentile added, “The public is very supportive of the project and tax-payers will save an estimated $700 thousand.” This project is expected to be completed by 2020 and designed to provide flood protection that can withstand another Hurricane Sandy.

 

photo of Port Monmouth flood wall

A concrete floodwall is being constructed to help reduce flooding as part of the Port Monmouth Flood Risk Management Project in Port Monmouth, New Jersey. Credit: JoAnne Castagna, Public Affairs.

photo of Port Monmouth floodwall foundation preparation

Marshy soil is being mixed with concrete and water to create a strong foundation for a levee as part of the Port Monmouth Flood Risk Management Project in Port Monmouth, New Jersey. Credit: JoAnne Castagna, Public Affairs.

Photo of Port Monmouth fishing pier

The Port Monmouth, New Jersey shoreline was built up and widened and a fishing pier extended as part of the Port Monmouth Flood Risk Management Project in Port Monmouth, New Jersey. Credit: JoAnne Castagna, Public Affairs.

Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, efforts to include dunes in coastal planning were renewed as their value in protecting ever-growing coastal communities was observed. While management guidelines for constructing dunes identify vegetation as necessary to trap and accrete sediment, the potential for vegetation to mitigate dune erosion during severe events remains unaddressed due to a paucity of data. Currently, little data exist that systematically explore the effect of vegetation on dune erosion and overwash during tropical and extra-tropical events. This lack of mechanistic understanding makes it difficult to quantify the possible value and services rendered by vegetation in the stabilization of dunes under wave attack.

Beginning in Fiscal Year 2016, a research and development effort using physical model testing was undertaken to investigate the role of vegetation in reducing dune erosion. This physical model study is the first to quantify the isolated effects of belowground biomass and aboveground biomass, as well the combination of above and belowground biomass, on dune erosion. Prior to designing the experiment, a literature review of dune vegetation species and characteristics was undertaken to build a representative physical model. Plants in the Family Poaceae, characterized as flowering grasses, have adapted to the harsh conditions present on coastal foredunes. These plants endure salt spray, occasional submersion, porous and poor soils, sand burial, and extended droughts. Additionally, dune vegetation is characterized by its abundance of belowground biomass, both roots and rhizomes.

Along the Gulf and Atlantic Coast of the United States, three grass species, Uniola paniculata, Ammophila  breviligulata, and Panicum amarum, are among the pioneer species of coastal foredunes. Foredunes along the Pacific Coast are often colonized by Leymus mollis, Poa macrantha, and Poa douglasii, also of the Family Poaceae. Each species is found to be specialized for different portions of the coastal United States, with Ammophila breviligulata and its European counterpart, Ammophila arenaria, invasively spreading along the Pacific Coast. In established dunes, the roots associated with these species are often in a symbiotic association with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. The AM fungus provides nutrient absorption benefits to the plants in exchange for carbohydrates via hyphae and also serves to bind sand into larger, macro aggregates.

To explore the effect of vegetation on dune erosion, a 1 to 15 scale dune model with simulated vegetation was constructed in ERDC’s 63 m long by 1.5 m wide wave flume. Aboveground biomass (e.g., stems and leaves) was approximated with wooden dowels and belowground biomass (e.g, roots) was approximated with coir (coconut husk fiber) (Fig. 1). A full LiDAR scan of the entire nearshore was used to measure the change in dune profile before and after a series of wave bursts, with linescan LiDAR providing instantaneous water levels and dune erosion during each wave burst. Both collision (scarping events) and overtopping (intermittent overwash) dune wave attack regimes were studied in this physical model.

Photo of scaled laboratory dune

 Fig. 1. 1 to 15 scaled laboratory dune showing wooden dowels representing the aboveground biomass and coir in the eroded section presenting the belowground biomass.

The results show that aboveground and belowground plant structures affect the erosion of coastal dunes. Under identical overtopping wave conditions, the aboveground biomass resulted in a 4.2% average reduction of erosion when compared to a dune with no aboveground biomass. The aboveground biomass reduced the dune erosion by an average of 4.6% for the wave collision regime. In comparison, belowground biomass reduced dune erosion by 25% and 18% for the overtopping and collision wave attack regimes, respectively. This reduction is hypothesized to be a result of the belowground biomass ability to bind sand into larger aggregates that have a higher resistance to erosion than single sand grains, thus providing increased stability under wave attack. The combination of above and belowground biomass had the greatest effect, with an average reduction in dune erosion of 42% for overtopping regimes and 31% for collision regimes. The effectiveness of the above and belowground biomass to reduce dune erosion was nonlinear, suggesting that interaction between the above and belowground biomass, and its sandy soil, in resisting dune erosion requires further investigation.

Figure of starting and final dune profile

 Fig. 2. Starting and final dune profile after wave attack for the four tested dune conditions (control, belowground biomass only, aboveground biomass only, and the combination of aboveground and belowground biomass).

Staff from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) New Orleans District during the April-May 2017 Mississippi River flood event, began co-located operations with the National Weather Service (NWS), Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center (LMRFC). This represents the first such liaison approach since USACE and the NWS signed a Collaboration Agreement on April 15, 2016, during a Mississippi River Commission high-water inspection trip.

The New Orleans District during the May 23-26 peak flooding embedded one of its water managers at the NWS LMRFC in Slidell, Louisiana, while three LMRFC staff were embedded at the USACE New Orleans District. This co-location allowed for knowledge transfer and mutual exchange of expertise in river forecasting, while gaining familiarity with missions and activities across agencies. Mr. Anthony Pegues, hydraulic engineer at the New Orleans District, attended briefings, shadowed forecasters, and listened on conference calls while working at the LMRFC, balancing these activities with his regular forecasting duties, which he was able to complete remotely. This experience allowed him to learn how LMRFC organizes its workload, assimilates new information into models as it comes in, and coordinates river forecasts with USACE offices throughout the Mississippi River watershed. He also took advantage of the opportunity to ask specific questions about model verification, model interaction, and quality assurance.

While Pegues was working from the LMRFC office in Slidell, Dr. Suzanne Van Cooten, Ms. Gina Tillis-Nash, and Ms. Emilie Nipper from the LMRFC were embedded at the New Orleans District. These forecasters attended morning command briefings, shadowed New Orleans District water managers, and asked detailed questions about District water management procedures. They reported that the most beneficial aspect of the experience was the opportunity to attend command briefings, where they witnessed briefs by representatives of emergency operations, engineering, operations, public affairs, contracting, and others. This allowed the LMRFC staff to understand how river forecasts play into flood fight operations, and how the district commander's decision-making is influenced by the forecasts that they generate in coordination with District water management staff. They also observed firsthand the nuances of New Orleans District forecasting and water management procedures, and were able to make professional relationships that will be beneficial to both organizations during future flood events.

USACE extended the deadline for public comments on the draft Engineer Circular for implementing Executive Order 11988, Floodplain Management, fromcheckbox 30 January 2017 to 1 May 2017. This extension was being offered in response to several requests as well as in recognition of the difficulty in compiling comments over the holiday season, the level of complexity and uncertainty around some of the changes in process being considered, and uncertainty due to the recent change in Administration.

Though USACE does not typically release internal guidance documents such as this for public review and comment, the interest that the updates to EO 11988 have drawn, along with the intent of the Administration that agencies update their implementation guidance in a transparent manner, call for such a step in this case. The policy will be available for review on the USACE website; comments are requested and should be submitted by email or in hard copy by mail.

Executive Order 11988 provides agencies guidance for managing activities that are in or near floodplains. This Order was amended in January 2015 by Executive Order 13690 to include the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS).USACE has revised its original policy for implementing EO 11988, Engineer Regulation (ER) 1165-2-26, Implementation of Executive Order 11988 on Floodplain Management, which was originally published in 1984, to address the new requirements.

USACE’s policy to implement the floodplain management guidance will be contained in an Engineer Circular (EC) that will rescind ER 1165-2-26. The Engineer Circular will expire two years after issuance and be replaced by permanent guidance informed by implementation experiences and lessons learned.

The draft EC provides high-level, overarching policy guidance for Civil Works mission areas. It is expected that more specific details of implementation will be articulated in program-specific or activity-specific guidance that will be updated or developed in the future. The requirements of the EO will continue to apply to all Civil Works mission areas, and to all actions meeting the definition specified in EO 11988. The additional requirements of the FFRMS will apply to a subset of agency actions that can be considered federal investments.

A notice has been placed in the Federal Register to announce this request for review and comment. The notice, the draft EC, and a document including a series of topic areas and issues for which feedback would be particularly valuable, were available for review.

Additional reference materials that may be of use in reviewing the draft EC were also available. As specified in the Federal Register Notice, comments may be submitted electronically by email or in hard copy by mail. The draft EC and supporting materials were available for comment until 1 May 2017. The intent was to have a final EC issued after that timeframe.

Jan Hendrik Dronkers, Director General of the Dutch Rijkswaterstaat (RWS), and Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), co-chaired a steering committee meeting to review technical exchanges between the RWS and USACE.

A Levee Safety Working Group, established under an agreement between the two organizations, has held regular partnership meetings over the past ten years to explore areas and issues of common interest, conducted workshops and training sessions, performed peer reviews of design and technical documents, conducted joint research, and enabled multiple staff exchanges by both the Dutch and U.S. partners.

The partnership has proven to be exemplary for technical exchange between two world-class public engineering organizations. The next staff exchange will occur in August with USACE hosting a RWS staff member. Other discussions during the steering committee meeting included asset management, performance management, maintenance of navigation infrastructure, sediment management, and how to move forward with natural and nature-based designs.

Attendees concluded their U.S. visit with a tour of the New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System, hosted by Steve Stockton, USACE Director of Civil Works, and Col. Richard Hansen, New Orleans District Commander.

 

The new version of the Hydrologic Engineering Center’s River Analysis System (HEC-RAS), the most widely used river hydraulics software package in the world, now has the ability to perform two-dimensional hydrodynamic modeling. With its new modeling capabilities, detailed flood mapping, and flood animations, HEC-RAS 5.0 provides a powerful tool for analyzing flood risk.

Introduction

HEC-RAS is used by all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) District and Division offices, other Federal agencies, state and local governments, private industry, environmental organizations, universities, and engineers worldwide.  It has been downloaded in more than 200 countries.

Until recently, HEC-RAS was limited to one-dimensional river hydraulics computations. Prompted by recent dam and levee safety analysis needs, and the overall desire to improve the hydrodynamic modeling capabilities for general floodplain modeling studies, the USACE Hydrologic Engineering Center developed and integrated two-dimensional hydrodynamics within the HEC-RAS unsteady flow computational engine.  HEC-RAS now has the ability to perform one-dimensional hydrodynamic modeling; completely separate two-dimensional hydrodynamics; and integrated one- and two-dimensional hydrodynamic modeling.

Two-Dimensional Modeling Capabilities

Two-dimensional flow areas have been added into HEC-RAS, such that users can easily combine one-dimensional and two-dimensional elements.  The software allows for multiple two-dimensional flow areas, with flexible connections to one-dimensional elements, as well as directly connected boundary conditions.  The two-dimensional modeling capabilities within HEC-RAS were built from the ground up to be directly integrated within the HEC-RAS unsteady flow engine.  In addition, several unique capabilities have been developed that will allow modelers to develop accurate and efficient one- and two-dimensional models. 

The ability to perform combined one-dimensional and two-dimensional modeling within the same unsteady flow model will allow modelers to work on larger river systems, using one-dimensional modeling where appropriate and two-dimensional modeling in areas that require a higher level of hydrodynamic fidelity.  A common example of where this new capability is useful is for rivers with levees: the modeler can use the one-dimensional model elements for the main river system and the two-dimensional model elements for the interior areas landward of the levees.  The software can be used to evaluate possible levee overtopping and breaching.

Example of a combined one-dimensional/two-dimensional HEC-RAS model for evaluating levee safety.

Example of a combined one-dimensional/two-dimensional HEC-RAS model for evaluating levee safety.

Additionally, the new two-dimensional modeling tools allow users to quickly generate hydraulic models.  HEC-RAS 5.0 has been used to assist with emergency flood operations both in South Carolina and Texas during recent major storms and floods.  HEC-RAS hydraulic models were quickly developed for areas that had none.  These models were used to map reasonable estimates of flood inundation to assist emergency operations. 

Example of a small dam breaching analysis for flooding in South Carolina.

Example of a small dam breaching analysis for flooding in South Carolina.

Detailed Flood Mapping and Flood Animations.  Mapping of the inundated area, as well as animations of the flooding, can be completed within HEC-RAS using RAS Mapper.  The mapping of the two-dimensional flow areas is based on the detailed underlying terrain.  HEC-RAS Version 5.0 can produce spatial mapping of water surface elevations, water depths, velocities, inundation boundaries, flood arrival times, flood durations, depth x velocity, stream power, and shear stress.  Additionally RAS Mapper has options to turn on particle tracing and velocity vector arrows for improved visualization of the water direction and magnitude.  These new mapping tools are extremely useful for understanding water movement and detailed hydraulic issues.

Example HEC-RAS two-dimensional model of the 17th Street outfall structure in New Orleans showing inundation areas and velocities, with velocity tracers for improved visualization.

Example HEC-RAS two-dimensional model of the 17th Street outfall structure in New Orleans showing inundation areas and velocities, with velocity tracers for improved visualization.

USACE held its 2015 Interagency Flood Risk Management Workshop December 2-4, 2015, in Southbridge, Massachusetts. The workshop brought together nearly 200 participants to explore the intersection between flood risk management and resilience. Representatives and subject matter experts from USACE and six other Federal agencies, 37 states, local participants, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and academia identified ways to increase resilience as they address flood risk.

A series of project development exercises provided participants with the opportunity to develop interagency project ideas, incorporating concepts from a resilience framework and receiving feedback from others. Participants also considered policy changes in support of flood risk management, offered feedback to inform the future direction of the USACE Flood Risk Management Program, and considered efforts to use scientific data and information to promote action and adaptation. The workshop concluded with options for joining either various small group discussions or a field trip to a nearby levee system with consideration of interim risk reduction measures and risk communication opportunities and challenges.

Workshop materials are available online, including both an overall agenda and a daily agenda with links to available presentations and handouts.

 

The redesigned Silver Jackets website is now available!  The redesigned site features improved organization, enhanced searchability, and new content regarding actions taken by state-led Silver Jackets teams across the nation.  The site also provides a portal for team members to access resources that support internal team development and sharing. Suggestions on the redesigned website are welcome.

The site was revised after considering broad suggestions offered during listening sessions for an earlier revision of the Flood Risk Management Program website, as well as specific comments offered by Silver Jackets team members during various meetings and webinars where the website was featured.  USACE revised existing content and developed new content as part of its ongoing role to support state Silver Jackets teams.

The Silver Jackets Program provides a formal and consistent strategy for an interagency approach to planning and implementing measures to reduce the risks associated with flooding and other natural hazards.  State-led Silver Jackets teams bring together multiple state, federal, and sometimes tribal and local agencies to learn from one another, facilitate collaborative solutions, and reduce flood risk and other natural disasters.  Within USACE, the Silver Jackets Program facilitates implementation of its Flood Risk Management Program at the state level.  USACE established the Flood Risk Management Program to work across the agency to focus its policies, programs, and expertise and to align USACE activities with counterpart activities of other federal, state, regional and local agencies in order to manage and reduce flood risk.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANRP) to request public comment by 14 April 14 2015, on potential revisions to 33 CFR Part 203, Emergency Employment of Army and Other Resources, Natural Disaster Procedures.

USACE has authority under Public Law 84-99 (PL 84-99) to undertake activities including disaster preparedness and advance measures, emergency operations including flood response and post-flood response, and the rehabilitation of flood risk management projects damaged or destroyed by floods. PL 84-99 authorities also include the protection or repair of federally-authorized Coastal Storm Damage Reduction projects.

USACE is considering updating policies and procedures for activities administered under PL 84-99 to better align them with national preparedness and response frameworks, to encourage broader flood risk management activities by sponsors, to reduce repetitive damage to projects, and to incorporate a life-cycle risk management approach. These changes support the agency’s strategic direction and advance risk-informed decision making, increase risk communication efforts, improve relationships with non-federal sponsors, and enhance long-term sustainability and resilience of projects.

USACE is soliciting stakeholder feedback on the overall policy concepts being considered through an ANPR. The ANPR provides background information on PL 84-99 authority, objectives of the policy changes under consideration, summary of the policy concepts, and targeted questions to help focus public comments. The ANPR has a 60-day comment period (closes 14 April 2015) through which interested parties can provide input prior to the development of the Proposed Rule for 33 CFR Part 203. Comments may be submitted through one of the following options:

  • Electronically  through the Federal eRulemaking Portal
  • Via email to 33CFR203@usace.army.mil (include docket number, COE-2015-0004, in subject line of message)
  • By mail to:
    HQ, US Army Corps of Engineers
    441 G Street NW, ATTN: 33CFR203/CECW-HS/3D64
    Washington DC 20314-1000

Following the ANPR comment review, USACE will update and publish the Proposed Rule for a 60-day comment period, revise the document based on comments received, publish the Final Rule, and then revise USACE internal guidance for 33 CFR Part 203 implementation.

If you are interested in learning more about the PL 84-99 Program and/or your opportunities to provide input to changes this program please contact Jeff Jensen.

fact sheet provides additional details about consideration of PL 84-99 changes.

  

On January 30, 2015, the President issued Executive Order (EO) 13690: Establishing of a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input. The EO amends existing EO 11988: Floodplain Management originally issued in 1977, to include the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS). The original EO 11988 governs federal actions in floodplains and includes an eight-step decision making process aimed to encourage wise floodplain management decisions.

The FFRMS builds on work done by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, which announced in April 2013 that all Sandy-related rebuilding projects funded by the Sandy Supplemental (Public Law 113-2) must meet a consistent flood risk reduction standard. The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy recommended that the federal government create a national flood risk standard for Federally-funded projects beyond the Sandy-affected region. In implementing the Standard, federal agencies will be given the flexibility to select one of three approaches for establishing the flood elevation and hazard area they use in siting, design, and construction:

  • Utilizing best-available, actionable data and methods that integrate current and future changes in flooding based on science,

  • Two or three feet of elevation, depending on the criticality of the building, above the 100-year, or 1%-annual-chance, flood elevation, or

  • 500-year, or 0.2%-annual-chance, flood elevation.

All options to determine the floodplain in which these Orders apply also include attention to whether a federal action in a floodplain is a critical action. The new EO and FFRMS are not retroactive and will only apply to new construction that uses federal funding.

The new EO also encourages agencies to consider natural systems, ecosystem processes, and nature-based approaches when development alternatives for consideration. This is consistent with recommendations and findings in the recently released North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study (NACCS). Both the NACCS and the FFRMS aim to reduce risk and increase resilience of communities’ abilities to withstand and rapidly recover from storm damages in addition to encouraging the use of natural systems, ecosystem processes, and nature-based approaches.

Agencies will not implement the new EO and FFRMS until public dialogue has taken place. Draft interagency Implementing Guidelines were developed and have been issued for public review and comment. The document will be available through May 6 for public comment. In conjunction with the public comment period on the interagency guidelines to implement the new Order, FEMA will be hosting at least seven stakeholder sessions. Six will be held in different locations and one session will be held virtually. These include meetings to be held in Des Moines, IA (March 3); Biloxi, MS (March 5); Sacramento, CA (March 11); Hampton Roads, VA (March 11); New York City, NY; and the National Capitol Region.

For additional details on stakeholder session location and participation, please contact FEMA, or see the Federal Register notice. Feedback gained during these sessions will inform revisions to the interagency Implementing Guidelines document, as well as inform individual agency guidance updates. In the months ahead, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will seek dialogue as the agency develops its implementing procedures for EO 13690 and the FFRMS.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently completed a report detailing the results of a two-year study to address coastal storm and flood risk to vulnerable populations, property, ecosystems, and infrastructure in areas of the North Atlantic region of the United States affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The study, known as the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study, is designed to help local communities better understand changing flood risks associated with climate change and to provide tools to help those communities better prepare for future flood risks. It builds on lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy and attempts to bring to bear the latest scientific information available for state, local, and tribal planners.

The conclusions of the study, as detailed in the final report, include several findings, outcomes, and opportunities, such as the use of a nine-step Coastal Storm Risk Management Framework that can be customized for any coastal watershed.

 

More information is available at http://www.nad.usace.army.mil/compstudy, including the final report and its appendices; associated technical products and tools advanced by the study to close data gaps; and a short overview video, interactive graphics, and links to the study’s webinars.

The 2014 Interagency Flood Risk Management Project Workshop, held August 19-21 in Southbridge, MA, brought together 125 partners from federal, state, and local governments. Participants shared their collective experience with interagency projects and addressed opportunities for improving future use of interagency projects to develop shared solutions to flood risk management challenges.

Participants heard from a panel of Federal agency representatives about the benefits their agencies experienced through participation with Silver Jackets interagency teams. Panelists focused on demonstrating the value that Silver Jackets teams can offer to other Federal agencies and better communicating these benefits to new potential partners. Later, panelists in a separate federal interagency “resource roundtable” presented programs and resources of Federal agencies that may not be well known among interagency teams. Both interagency panels highlighted opportunities for new partners and new ways to engage that can further increase the range of resources, programs, and authorities available to interagency teams.  An August 2014 special edition of the Silver Jackets Newsletter reinforced the opportunities presented by providing a reference of federal agency programs, resources and training opportunities that interagency teams can leverage to achieve their flood risk management goals.

Additional presentations during the workshop focused on interagency projects.  Representatives from various state Silver Jackets teams overviewed example interagency projects and highlighted key lessons learned from each. Another panel focused on trends, drivers, and developments in flood risk management that may influence future interagency projects.  Workshop participants considered successful project starts, communicating interagency project success, and overcoming common challenges and obstacles in interagency project implementation.

The workshop included significant opportunity for small group discussion. Participants self-selected from among several topics for more detailed focus groups or for discussing how to tackle issues from a regional geographic perspective.

Critical challenges identified by participants included identifying interagency partner resources within various funding cycles and funding constraints, preventing future at-risk development, developing nonstructural measures in a structural culture, and identifying shared goals among all partners that will be acted on at the conclusion of a project.

All workshop materials are available online.  Available materials include the workshop agenda with links to presentations given during the workshop, workshop handouts and resources (including the August 2014 special edition of the Silver Jackets newsletter and posters providing key information on scores of interagency projects nationwide), and photos taken during the workshop.

On March 21, 2014, USACE issued interim policy on eligibility for rehabilitation assistance for levee systems.  The interim policy was developed in response to numerous changes over the last few years in the agency’s strategic direction, and is intended to keep the Rehabilitation Program operational during a longer-term policy revision effort.  USACE revised its policy on eligibility for rehabilitation assistance under Public Law 84-99 (PL 84-99) to better synchronize the Rehabilitation Program with the agency’s strategic direction for flood risk management and levee safety.  The eligibility criteria for rehabilitation assistance promote broader flood risk management activities, including emergency preparedness planning, risk communication, and risk-informed prioritization of maintenance activities.  Development of new policy for rehabilitation assistance will be a long-term effort as it will require changes to 33 Code of Federal Regulations Part 203 through a rule-making process.

The interim policy allows eligibility determinations to continue while the final policy is developed.  The interim policy applies only to levee systems; determinations for other types of flood risk management projects will be on hold until the final policy is developed.  The interim policy’s eligibility criteria for levee systems are a subset of the inspection items included on the current Levee Inspection Checklist.  The subset includes the items that, based on the current inspection rating description, were most directly related to performance of the levee system.  These items were also selected to ensure that no incentive would be created for public sponsors to take actions that might negatively impact natural resources or tribal rights.  To that end, vegetation on levees is no longer a criterion to be considered in eligibility determinations for rehabilitation assistance.    

The interim policy is effective immediately and will be used in all future Initial Eligibility Inspections and Continuing Eligibility Inspections for the PL 84-99 Rehabilitation Program.  For levee systems that do not meet the interim eligibility criteria, the System-Wide Improvement Framework  (SWIF) remains an option for levees to maintain eligibility while making progress on addressing system deficiencies.  For levee systems currently with an approved Letter of Intent (LOI) or accepted SWIF plan, the public sponsor will have the choice to a) address all system-wide issues in the current plan, b) reprioritize to focus on the interim eligibility criteria, or c) cancel the LOI or SWIF and follow the interim policy if the interim eligibility criteria can be met.  The SWIF policy represents the broader flood risk management approach that is anticipated to be the direction of the final Rehabilitation Program policy.

presentationtalking points, fact sheet, and questions and answers regarding the interim policy are also available.

 

The congressional response to 2012’s Hurricane Sandy included legislation for a comprehensive study to identify regional, systemic vulnerability of populations at risk along the north Atlantic coast. The study, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers North Atlantic Division spearheads, brings together experts from government, non-government organizations, academia and industry to develop a framework that provides risk reduction strategies and promotes coastal resilient communities.

In Phase 1, experts began coordinating to assemble existing and future conditions. The assessments and products of this initial phase included: storm suite modeling, state-specific coastal risk frameworks, storm economic impact estimation tool, sea level rise and vulnerability assessments and maps, and identification of risk and preliminary approaches for system resilience.

Phase 2, beginning in the first quarter of 2014, will seek to validate the process and enhance collaboration. Activities in the second  phase will include alignment with other regional plans, solicitation and incorporation of interagency, partner and international comments, and additional analyses as warranted.

Phase 3 will start in the fall of 2014 and will include preparing a report for submission to Congress in January 2015.

For more information on the study, visit http://www.nad.usace.army.mil/CompStudy.aspx

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have developed Infrastructure Systems Rebuilding Principles for the North Atlantic Coast following widespread damages to the coast during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The principles aim to inform efforts to rebuild more resilient and sustainable coastal communities capable of adapting to and mitigating for coastal hazards.  The joint USACE-NOAA document details principles that are designed to improve long-term performance of coastal rebuilding and restoration actions taken though the Infrastructure Systems Recovery Support Function under the National Disaster Recovery Framework.

The rebuilding principles are developed on a regional scale to anticipate changes to the environment, integrate economic, social and environmental resiliency and sustainability, and promote long-term community protection.  The principles also recognize that natural systems and processes are linked with and contribute to the resiliency of physical infrastructure, coastal economies and community well-being. Through the principles, USACE and NOAA agree to work together across multiple scales of government and with relevant external entities and stakeholders to develop long-term strategies that protect and restore natural resources and functions of the coast, while enhancing coastal resilience. This effort includes involving stakeholders; aligning agency actions; leveraging partnerships; aligning and delivering data, tools and information; and conducting assessments to determine what is and is not working.
 
The principles are designed to improve coastal resilience through a systems approach that incorporates natural, social and built systems as a whole, and to identify and align priority actions and investments to support and empower coastal communities. USACE and NOAA also aim to promote increased recognition and awareness of risks and consequences among stakeholders and the public. An increased understanding of risk is also needed for decision makers so they are more able to make informed decisions based on the best available information amidst changing climate, environment, land use and coastal development. The agencies also look to encourage coordination of and common approaches to characterization of risks. The document will be used to inform the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study.

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Flood Risk Management and Silver Jackets Programs held a series of webinars August 20-22, 2013, to share information and experiences among those actively managing flood risk. An additional day of training was offered on August 23. Audio recordings and presentation materials are available for download at http://www.nfrmp.us/frmpw/2013webinarweek/agenda.cfm. A total of 414 participants registered, and on average approximately 150 people participated across all concurrent sessions at any given time.

The webinars focused on integrating and leveraging efforts to reduce flood risk. Our nation is confronted with numerous challenges in managing flood risks to public safety and economic enterprise. While the USACE has a key role in managing flood risks, no single federal or non-federal entity is solely responsible. Rather, multiple federal, state, local and tribal agencies, as well as private citizens, play a role in flood risk management. The series of webinars provided an opportunity for flood risk management professionals to share their knowledge and experiences, with a goal of promoting mutual efforts that are efficient, effective, and connected. The 2013 “Webinar Week” helped maintain information exchange, relationships, and momentum between face-to-face biennial Flood Risk Management and Silver Jackets Workshops, the next of which is expected to occur in 2014.
 

Ms. Karen Durham-Aguilera, USACE Director of Contingency Operations and Homeland Security, has approved the Program Management Plan (pdf, 1.75 MB) developed for the USACE Flood Risk Management Program, providing further guidance and information on the implementation of the program to supplement the initial guidance first issued to the MSCs and Districts in October of 2009. Under the original guidance, each Major Subordinate Command (MSC, commonly referred to as the Divisions) and District was directed to establish a Flood Risk Management Program and identify an FRM program manager and a Silver Jackets program manager (MSC offices) or coordinator (District offices).

The Program Management Plan provides structure and framework for the Flood Risk Management and Silver Jackets Programs. Due to the changing nature of these challenges, initiatives and actions with time, this Program Management Plan is anticipated to be a working document that will be periodically updated to reflect current conditions in flood risk management.

The Program Management Plan also provides important information on the organizational structure of the program and provides an understanding of what would be considered success. This information will help ensure consistency in implementation of the program across the Corps, while allowing for the accommodation of unique circumstances and needs between MSCs and Districts. One appendix to the Program Management Plan is a detailed Communications Strategy that will assist in both internal and external coordination on flood risk management issues.

Using information provided in the approved national Program Management Plan as a starting point, the MSC and District Flood Risk Managers are charged with developing implementation plans for their Flood Risk Management Programs. These plans will guide the integration of the National Flood Risk Management Program into the existing MSC and District structure.

As directed by the President, the Federal Government is bringing all available resources to bear in supporting state and local partners affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Federal support began before the storm hit and continues as efforts transition from emergency response to long-term recovery.

In the initial weeks and months after Hurricane Sandy, federal actions were guided by the National Response Framework (2008). This framework presents the guiding principles that enable all response partners to prepare for and provide a unified national response to disasters and emergencies. Itdefines the key principles, roles, and structures that organize the way we respond as a Nation, and it describes how communities, tribes, States, the Federal Government, and private-sector and nongovernmental partners apply these principles for a coordinated, effective national response.

In accordance with the National Response Framework, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides the overall lead for federal assistance, ensuring alignment among the federal family and with its public and private partners. As of February 1, 2013, FEMA had 4,486 personnel deployed, 30 disaster recovery centers established, and $1.20 billion in assistance approved. Information on FEMA's work, including in initial search and rescue, communications, logistical support, housing, and assistance, is available on a FEMA webpage devoted to Hurricane Sandy. FEMA's Deputy Administrator describes work to incorporate innovation into its program and process in “Lessons from Sandy: A Word on Innovation”.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acts as the lead for public works and engineering-related support, supporting immediate emergency response priorities, sustaining lives, and initiating recovery efforts. At the peak of its response activities, 990 team members were engaged in addition to the 3,000 employees within the North Atlantic Division. The Corps cleared more than 400,000 cubic yards of debris, removed more than 475 million gallons of water during de-watering operations, and trucked in over 9.2 million liters of water. It provided 55MW of temporary power and helped assess critical public facilities such as hospitals, schools, and city halls. Information on the Corps' work is available on a Corps webpage devoted to Hurricane Sandy.

As post-Sandy work progresses, activities are increasingly guided by the new National Disaster Recovery Framework, released on September 23, 2011, as the first framework published under Presidential Policy Directive – 8. The National Response Framework primarily addresses actions during disaster response. The National Disaster Recovery Framework, which aligns with and partially replaces the National Response Framework, is a guide to promote effective recovery, particularly for incidents that are large-scale or catastrophic. Its guidance enables effective recovery support, and its flexible structure helps disaster recovery managers collaborate and unify their efforts. It focuses on how best to restore, redevelop, and revitalize the health, social, economic, natural, and environmental fabric of the community and build a more resilient Nation.

A Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, established by The President by an Executive Order  issued on December 7, 2012, will work in collaboration with the leadership provided through the National Disaster Recovery Framework to consider a comprehensive and collaborative approach to long-term rebuilding plans. Chaired by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Task Force will coordinate with all stakeholders to deliver cohesive rebuilding strategies, creating a comprehensive regional plan within six months of its initial meeting and offering a vision for long-term rebuilding by State and local stakeholders with a focus on resiliency and sustainability.

Efforts continue to strengthen the Nation's security and resilience through systematic preparation for threats that pose the greatest risk to the Nation's security, as directed by Presidential Policy Directive – 8 (PPD-8) on National Preparedness, issued March 11, 2011. The National Preparedness Goal (September 2011), called for by PPD-8, identifies the core capabilities necessary for preparedness in five mission areas: prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. In order to build, sustain, and deliver these core capabilities, the National Preparedness Goal sets out other components of PPD-8 that will be implemented, including a national preparedness system, a series of national frameworks (of which the National Disaster Recovery Framework is one) and federal interagency operational plans, a national preparedness report, and a campaign to build and sustain preparedness. Hurricane Sandy is ground-testing the existing frameworks of PPD-8 and illuminating key issues for remaining frameworks and operating plans.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers successfully hosted 248 flood risk management professionals at its 3rd Flood Risk Management and Silver Jackets Workshop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on August 20-24. Participants focused on inter-agency activities at various levels of government in managing flood risk, discussed program policy and strategies, and shared successes and challenges. The workshop provided an opportunity to network, enhance collaborative problem-solving, and facilitate sharing among Federal and state partners. Workshop objectives included demonstrating results and benefits of collaborative approaches, unifying approaches to communicating flood risk in order to effect action, and refining approaches to delivering Federal government services.

Participants praised the relevance of the workshop to their work and highly rated the workshop overall. Key sessions covered topics such as raising the level of public dialogue to manage flood risk, benefits of mitigation, and achievements of Silver Jackets pilot projects and perspectives on evaluating risk reduction. Informational sessions focused on subjects ranging from flood forecasting to ensuring robust analysis of alternatives for flood mitigation options. Field trips offered a chance to view first-hand either flood risk management experiences in the Harrisburg area or Pennsylvania's Emergency Operations Center and Joint Field Office. Nearly half the participants took advantage of preceding training sessions that offered options for more in-depth learning.

The USACE Flood Risk Management Program works across the agency to focus its policies, programs and expertise toward reducing overall flood risk, and aligns USACE efforts with counterpart activities of other Federal agencies, state organizations, and regional and local agencies. The Silver Jackets program provides an opportunity to consistently bring together state, Federal, and sometimes tribal and local agencies to learn from one another and apply their knowledge to reduce risk.

As part of the Learning from Megadisasters project sponsored by the Government of Japan and the World Bank, “knowledge notes” are available online regarding the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. The knowledge notes analyze and synthesize what worked, what did not, and why, and offer recommendations for developing countries that face similar risks and vulnerabilities. The knowledge notes constitute the first phase of the project and are grouped into the following six themes:

  • Structural measures
  • Nonstructural measures
  • Emergency response
  • Reconstruction planning
  • Hazard and risk information and decision making
  • Economics of disaster risk, risk management, and risk financing

An executive summary and brochure also available. The knowledge notes provide a basis for knowledge sharing and exchanges with developing countries, experts, and practitioners. They were prepared by more than 40 Japanese and international experts, assisted by 50 advisers and reviewers including the Director of Civil Works, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who was a member of an independent external review team coordinated by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute.

For more information, please see http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/07/10/megadisasters-why-learning-matters.

On Friday, July 6, 2012, President Obama signed a $105 billion bill that combines two years of surface transportation projects, one year of lower interest rates for student loans and a five-year reauthorization and reform of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The compromise provisions applying to the NFIP are based largely on the Senate reform bill that was passed out of Committee (S. 1940) and includes the following key provisions:

  • Ending flood insurance subsidies for several classes of structures (severe repetitive loss, properties for which sum of insured losses exceed market value of the property, business properties, substantially damaged/improved properties and properties with new or lapsed insurance policies). This provision was largely contained in both the House and Senate bills and is already being implemented for any residential home that is not a person's primary residence, which was approved by Congress during the last temporary extension of the NFIP (HR 5070).
  • Authorizes a National Flood Mapping Program – Prior to this bill, while flood mapping was necessary to implement the program, it had never been authorized. An authorized program, especially in tight budget times, is far preferable to trying to convince Congress to fund something that is not authorized by them. For example, Map Modernization was considered a “Presidential Initiative.” The program is authorized for up to $400 million/year (this is not what it will actually receive which is determined during the budgeting and appropriations process).
  • Establishes a Technical Mapping Advisory Council (TMAC). A Technical Mapping Advisory Council is being established to, among other things, recommend to FEMA how to improve the accuracy, quality, use, distribution and dissemination of flood maps and flood risk data; recommend any new/updated mapping standards and guidelines; recommend procedures for delegating mapping activities; recommend methods for improving interagency coordination; and develop recommendations on how to ensure that FIRMs incorporate the best available climate science to assess flood risks.
Flood Risk Management Program