Flood Risk Management Program


In the Spotlight

 Silver Jackets Teams Well-Positioned to Reduce Flood Risk after Wildfire

Flood risk significantly increases immediately after a wildfire. Post-fire assessments have estimated that peak flood flows can increase as much as 1,000 percent after a wildfire because of the absence of vegetation and reduced absorptive qualities of soils. Barren, unstable soils also increase the risk of debris flows and landslides, blocking drainages and compounding the problem with associated flooding. 

Federal and state agencies have an effective, well-coordinated model to prepare for and fight wildfires. After the wildfire, federal agencies, such as the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, are experienced at completing rapid assessments to identify imminent post-wildfire threats to human life, safety, and property and can take immediate action to manage risks on federal lands. These agen¬cies, however, are not authorized to mitigate risks to homes and infrastructure on private and state lands that are often located within or downstream of the burned areas. There may not be sufficient funds to support all recommended recovery actions on federal lands in years when significant acreage is consumed by fires. 

The situation presents a multi-hazard problem that requires sharing resources and information so that actions focus on highest priority risk areas – a situation that state Silver Jackets teams are well-equipped to handle.  These state-led interagency teams work together to manage flood risk and sometimes other natural hazards. Although each state team differs, members usually include multiple federal agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and typically the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, and National Weather Service, as well as a variety of other federal and state partners.

While there is significant information about post-wildfire recovery and assistance opportunities, local governments and communities may find it challenging to identify appropriate opportunities and to coordinate the needed activities and resources. Silver Jackets teams in western states have worked effectively with state and local jurisdictions to facilitate a collaborative, watershed approach to post-wildfire flood risk mitigation, ensuring coordination with all levels of government and impacted stakeholders and more efficiently leveraging multiple agency resources. 

As one key role, Silver Jackets teams can act as a bridge for those completing rapid assessments of burned areas with other state and federal agencies. Silver Jackets teams can conduct supplementary risk assessments to extend impact analysis beyond federal lands, assist with delivering coordinated and consistent risk messaging, and coordinate additional monitoring and gaging.  They can also work with affected jurisdictions on potential short-term and long-term mitigation and recovery. Silver Jackets teams have coordinated, multi-agency approaches that assist local jurisdictions and the public with resource and program identification, leverage data from multiple programs, remove redundancies, and increase community awareness of risks. The capability of each Silver Jackets team is dependent on the agencies participating and the resources available.  

In 2020, Silver Jackets teams supported post-wildfire activities in six states (California, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and Washington). They conducted community outreach, held workshops, and developed community resource guides. The teams modeled and mapped post-fire flood risk, and developed monitoring plans, inventoried available equipment, and installed rain gages and water quality monitoring sites. They also engaged with communities and assisted with identifying and scoping future projects.

The Oregon Silver Jackets team support to the 2020 Oregon Wildfires is described in the April 2021 “Buzz” Newsletter, including suggested successful practices in a post-wildfire environment.  It is accompanied by a retrospective on assessing changes in flood inundation boundaries in light of the Oregon wildfires.  The newsletter also describes the Utah Silver Jackets team’s support to the “Be Ready Utah” webinar, which discussed current flood-after-fire efforts and preparedness.

Increased flood risks can persist for months or years after a wildfire. Silver Jackets teams can assist with initial and continuing interagency coordination and support.

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 Silver Jackets Teams Well-Positioned to Reduce Flood Risk after Wildfire

Flood risk significantly increases immediately after a wildfire. Post-fire assessments have estimated that peak flood flows can increase as much as 1,000 percent after a wildfire because of the absence of vegetation and reduced absorptive qualities of soils. Barren, unstable soils also increase the risk of debris flows and landslides, blocking drainages and compounding the problem with associated flooding. 

Federal and state agencies have an effective, well-coordinated model to prepare for and fight wildfires. After the wildfire, federal agencies, such as the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, are experienced at completing rapid assessments to identify imminent post-wildfire threats to human life, safety, and property and can take immediate action to manage risks on federal lands. These agen¬cies, however, are not authorized to mitigate risks to homes and infrastructure on private and state lands that are often located within or downstream of the burned areas. There may not be sufficient funds to support all recommended recovery actions on federal lands in years when significant acreage is consumed by fires. 

The situation presents a multi-hazard problem that requires sharing resources and information so that actions focus on highest priority risk areas – a situation that state Silver Jackets teams are well-equipped to handle.  These state-led interagency teams work together to manage flood risk and sometimes other natural hazards. Although each state team differs, members usually include multiple federal agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and typically the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, and National Weather Service, as well as a variety of other federal and state partners.

While there is significant information about post-wildfire recovery and assistance opportunities, local governments and communities may find it challenging to identify appropriate opportunities and to coordinate the needed activities and resources. Silver Jackets teams in western states have worked effectively with state and local jurisdictions to facilitate a collaborative, watershed approach to post-wildfire flood risk mitigation, ensuring coordination with all levels of government and impacted stakeholders and more efficiently leveraging multiple agency resources. 

As one key role, Silver Jackets teams can act as a bridge for those completing rapid assessments of burned areas with other state and federal agencies. Silver Jackets teams can conduct supplementary risk assessments to extend impact analysis beyond federal lands, assist with delivering coordinated and consistent risk messaging, and coordinate additional monitoring and gaging.  They can also work with affected jurisdictions on potential short-term and long-term mitigation and recovery. Silver Jackets teams have coordinated, multi-agency approaches that assist local jurisdictions and the public with resource and program identification, leverage data from multiple programs, remove redundancies, and increase community awareness of risks. The capability of each Silver Jackets team is dependent on the agencies participating and the resources available.  

In 2020, Silver Jackets teams supported post-wildfire activities in six states (California, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and Washington). They conducted community outreach, held workshops, and developed community resource guides. The teams modeled and mapped post-fire flood risk, and developed monitoring plans, inventoried available equipment, and installed rain gages and water quality monitoring sites. They also engaged with communities and assisted with identifying and scoping future projects.

The Oregon Silver Jackets team support to the 2020 Oregon Wildfires is described in the April 2021 “Buzz” Newsletter, including suggested successful practices in a post-wildfire environment.  It is accompanied by a retrospective on assessing changes in flood inundation boundaries in light of the Oregon wildfires.  The newsletter also describes the Utah Silver Jackets team’s support to the “Be Ready Utah” webinar, which discussed current flood-after-fire efforts and preparedness.

Increased flood risks can persist for months or years after a wildfire. Silver Jackets teams can assist with initial and continuing interagency coordination and support.

 USACE Publishes Policy Update for Inundation Maps and the National Inventory of Dams

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published Engineer Circular 1110-2-6075, “Inundation Maps and Emergency Action Plans and Incident Management for Dams and Levee Systems,” in October. This update allows for the use and public dissemination of inundation maps in emergency action plans (EAP) and the National Inventory of Dams (NID), It also provides the dam safety community access to critical information about residual flood risks from USACE dams and levees.

“USACE-generated inundation maps assist with modeling, exercise scenarios, emergency planning, and community preparedness. USACE also supports our partners through programs such as Floodplain Management Services, Silver Jackets, and Planning Assistance to States to develop inundation maps for non-USACE infrastructure to support flood preparedness activities,” said Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, USACE Commanding General and U.S. Army Chief of Engineers.

Access to USACE-generated inundation maps was previously restricted to emergency management authorities and other federal agencies only after signing a non-disclosure agreement.  This policy update will increase transparency by effectively characterizing flood risk to stakeholders and the public, establish an agency-wide standard for the application of inundation maps in EAPs, while maintaining safeguards for sensitive information.

Sharing inundation maps through the National Inventory of Dams and public engagement will provide the best information available for the public and communities to understand potential flood risk from USACE dams and empower them to make more-informed decisions during flooding events.

“Engineer Circular 1110-2-6075 provides consistency for USACE EAP and EAP inundation map products to promote common understanding and ease of use for these resources. For example, the guidance promotes a consistent approach for organizing and implementing EAPs; communicating, creating and labeling inundation maps; conducting exercises; addressing security provisions; reviewing and approving plans and resources; reporting incidents; and authorities and responsibilities,” said Spellmon.

An EAP is required for all USACE-operated and maintained dams and levees. In the event of a breach or non-breach flooding, the EAP is a comprehensive planning tool that shapes advanced coordination and evacuation plans and facilitates timely emergency response activities.

National Inventory of Dams

USACE maintains and publishes the publicly accessible online NID database, https://nid.sec.usace.army.mil, in cooperation with the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), the states and territories, and federal dam-regulating agencies. The NID is the central component in sharing information on approximately 90,580 federal and non-federal dams nationwide, including approximately USACE’s 740 dams. Information in the NID includes location, size, type, inspection, regulatory facts and other technical data for each dam that meets the criteria to be included in the NID.

The addition of inundation map data to the NID ensures a common operating picture and helps communities both upstream and downstream manage risk. Access to inundation maps on the NID webpage is scheduled for late 2021. Individuals requiring access to USACE dam project EAP inundation maps prior to this should contact their local USACE district office.

Visit https://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Dam-Safety-Program/ for more information about the USACE Dam Safety Program. Comments may be submitted by email to HQ-EAP@usace.army.mil.


 New Risk Communication Guides Available for Flood Risk Management Practitioners

The Natural Hazards Center, located at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, with support from the USACE National Flood Risk Management Program team, has prepared a risk communication guide and annotated bibliography for use by Silver Jackets teams and other federal and state flood risk management professionals.  The documents advance risk communication best practices and provide supporting resources, drawing from an array of evidence-based recommendations for effectively communicating across the disaster lifecycle, with particular focus on flood risk and socially vulnerable populations.  The documents were developed and organized to provide users with a concise delivery of key concepts while providing opportunities for deeper exploration of topics. 

The Principles of Risk Communication Guide: A Guide to Communication with Socially Vulnerable Populations Across the Disaster Lifecycle identifies three overarching principles based on a review of literature and relevant research: (1) communicate through familiar and trusted messengers; (2) provide clear, actionable information, and; (3) tailor messages and information pathways for target audiences. The organizational format allows the reader to easily navigate and comprehend the principles, with tables summarizing underlying concepts and examples of each principle’s application in real world situations for each phase of the disaster lifecycle. While the principles can be broadly applied to all populations, the guide highlights tips, implications and considerations for communication with socially vulnerable populations (defined as those who face a disproportionate disaster risk due to a variety of historical, social, economic and political considerations).

The Natural Hazards Center has also prepared a companion annotated bibliography for practitioners interested in delving deeper into the supporting information behind these principles. Risk Communication Involving Vulnerable Populations: An Annotated Bibliography summarizes published academic research, public reports and guidance documents for more than 40 resources. A table at the front summarizes in one sentence the risk communication implications conveyed by the resource. Additional information for each resource includes key findings and take-home messages stated up-front and a brief abstract.

The collaborative partnership between USACE and the Natural Hazards Center was established through an interagency agreement between USACE and the National Science Foundation as the granting agency for the Natural Hazards Center Clearinghouse. Under this agreement, the Natural Hazards Center is currently developing a practitioner’s worksheet to support application of the risk communication guide principles that is anticipated to be available in late 2021.

For questions or comments about these documents, please email IWR.SilverJackets@usace.army.mil.

Additional information about the Natural Hazards Center development of these risk communications documents can be found at https://hazards.colorado.edu/research-projects/risk-communication-and-social-vulnerability.

 Airborne Lidar Technology Enables Cutting-Edge Knowledge of Changing Coastal Conditions

New digital elevation data, obtained years ahead of schedule along the New York and New Jersey coastlines, is already yielding benefits.

In a hotel conference room on Long Island, New York, a team of experts processes data on computers. A large monitor displays topographic and bathymetric information.

“It’s a beautiful thing. On the screen they are able to observe the condition of New York’s and New Jersey’s coastlines almost in real-time,” said Jeffrey Cusano, geospatial coordinator, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

The team is the Joint Airborne Lidar Bathymetry Technical Center of Expertise (JALBTCX). Recently, Cusano and other members of the New York District seized the opportunity to use this team to obtain cutting-edge survey data about the current condition of New York’s and New Jersey’s coasts. USACE is already using this data to monitor and cost-effectively improve its coastal projects, as it enters the Atlantic Hurricane Season.

The JALBTCX is based at USACE’s Mobile District in Alabama. The Center performs operations, research, and development in various airborne geospatial technologies to support coastal mapping and charting requirements for USACE.  The Center also partners with other federal agencies, private industry, and academia to further develop these technologies.

One of the Center’s programs is the National Coastal Mapping Program. The mission’s intent is to acquire regional, high-resolution, high-accuracy elevation and imagery data along the sandy shorelines of the United States on a recurring basis.

An image showing the shoreline elevations along the coast of Staten Island, New York, as sample elevation image.
A sample of the type of elevation images the JALBTCX team developed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. This image shows the shoreline elevations along the coast of Staten Island, New York. (USACE)

To obtain this data, JALBTCX uses an aircraft equipped with government-owned, state-of-the-art remote sensing platforms. These platforms comprise a lidar sensor with both topographic and bathymetric capabilities, and two additional aerial mapping cameras. The lidar’s topographic capability measures the elevation of the coastline’s beach and dune systems and its bathymetric capability measures the seafloor elevations. Whether operating over land or water, the lidar sensor provides highly detailed and accurate elevation measurements, while the two additional cameras provide high-resolution images and spectral information.

This data is acquired along the sandy coastlines of the United States approximately every five years. The last time JALBTCX flew over the coasts of New York and New Jersey was in 2017 and it is next scheduled to fly again in 2022.  The New York District wanted to get this information sooner. When they discovered that JALBTCX had a window of time available, the District coastal team quickly worked to take advantage of this opportunity.

“They wanted to understand the current coastal condition and how it compared to the 2017 condition to see what work needs to be done now to improve the condition of the coasts. This may involve such things as sand replenishment and environmental work. They also wanted to see if the work they already performed is functioning well,” said Cusano.

Over a two-week period in late January, the JALBTCX team flew their lidar and cameras over portions of the New York and New Jersey coasts. The coastal team worked closely with JALBTCX to design flight plans that would produce good data coverage over New York District’s coastal projects. The flights covered approximately 157 miles of coastline.

To capture the data, the flight crew flew primarily during daylight hours at or near low tide, at an altitude of 1,300 feet above ground level and at an air speed of 140 knots, covering a swath that included between 1,000 and 2,000 meters of the nearshore and onshore area. They flew overnight operations only in the vicinity of John F. Kennedy International Airport in order to work with existing airspace restrictions. The survey aircraft operated out of the Long Island MacArthur Airport. The JALBTCX team stood up a flight operations and data production center in a hotel conference room nearby. 

The JALBTCX team will produce a Change Analysis. To perform this analysis, JALBTCX used this newly acquired continuous digital elevation dataset and compared it to their dataset from 2017.  Results will reveal where sand has either eroded or accumulated along the coastline.

“We now have valuable information that shows us where there may be storm damage and sand loss that requires repairs,” said Cusano. “It also shows us how we are progressing with ongoing coastal projects, of which we have done many in the last three years.”

According to senior coastal engineer Suzana Rice, JALBTCX’s lidar “is a great tool for us to monitor and understand our coastlines and compare data from previous years, to use during the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season.”

She added that the timeliness of the Change Analysis data, having been delivered just 10 business days after the last flight, enabled one particular coastal project to proceed faster. “Because of this new data, we were able to expedite the pre-construction engineering and design phase of the Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point Project.” She added that the data is also being used to cost-effectively create the plans and specifications for the Fire Island Inlet to Moriches Inlet Emergency Stabilization Project.

In order to create these plans and specifications, the team needs to know how much sand will be needed to replenish the beach.  Without the JALBTCX data, traditional surveying techniques would have been required; they would have taken longer and been more expensive.

The JALBTCX data is also useful for other purposes. For example, senior biologist Robert Smith noted that the data is being used “to design and track changes to habitats we built for endangered species, such as the Piping Plover, an endangered bird that nests along the shore in the summer. We built habitats for the plovers to nest and forage.”

Likewise, Cusano noted that the data may help inform and educate the public. “This past fall we had a number of nor’easters that caused coastal damage,” he said. “Because of this, residents contacted us.  They sought information about damages and if rebuilding was needed. We were able to use the data to better respond to their inquiries.”

Finally, the lidar data is also available to the public and other agencies. The JALBTCX team posts the data on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Digital Coast website, which includes a multiyear archive of survey data acquired along U.S. coasts by partners in the federal mapping community and some state agencies. Website users can search for a specific coastal area, learn about available data, specify which data layers they want to view, and save the information in the format they prefer. The dataset that JALBTCX gathered recently for the New York District is currently accessible here: https://coast.noaa.gov/dataviewer/#/lidar/search/where:ID=9000 .

“In my opinion, this data is a win for everybody,” said Cusano. “It helps USACE monitor and cost-effectively improve our coastal projects, and it helps our agency educate the public about their coasts and the work we are doing for them, as we begin a new Atlantic hurricane season.”

A photo of the JALBTCX team standing in front of their aircraft at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, New York.
The JALBTCX team standing with Col. Thomas Asbery, former district commander, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (far right), in front of their aircraft, at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, New York. (USACE, 2020)

 2020 Interagency Flood Risk Management Seminars


The 2020 Interagency Flood Risk Management (FRM) Seminar was held in St. Louis, MO, from February 24-28.  The seminar was intended to bring together those involved with FRM and Silver Jackets (SJ) and learn from one another on how to be successful in FRM given a changing environment. 

There were a total of 224 participants in attendance during this seminar, with 57 percent from USACE, 11 percent representing the states, and 22 percent from other Federal agencies.  Topics covered included opportunities to break the “damage-rebuild” cycle and how interagency collaboration can accomplish this, new policy changes related to FRM, team exercises to work together through FRM challenges, new technology and practical application of data, models, and tools, bringing people into the FRM equations, and many other valuable topics throughout the week.

There were many sessions that discussed using technology and innovation with collaboration for success in FRM.  One example of this innovation was a virtual reality (VR) experience by FEMA called IMMERSED.  The VR allowed users to experience a real-world scenario from the perspective of a community leader in a flood-affected town. 

Another excellent opportunity for collaboration and learning about others’ technology was the Interagency Café.  The Interagency Café allowed teams to identify Subject Matter Experts they would like to learn more from in order to better support their efforts.  Teams explored the variety of partner programs, resources, and technical expertise available to tackle interagency FRM challenges.

This seminar was a huge success and brought a wealth of information to all participants.  Seminar materials are available online, including an overall agenda as well as presentations and handouts. 

 After the Fire:  New Website Provides Info, Tips and Resources    


A beta version of a collaboratively-developed “After the Fire” website is available to help manage post-fire flood risks and offer tips for those affected.

At the 2019 Northwest Regional Floodplain Management Association’s (NORFMA) Annual Conference, the theme, “Fires, Floods, Mud, and More: Integrated Processes,” presented an opportunity to shine light on a type of flood risk that is rather different from the wet winter or high snowpack flood cycles that are typically thought to afflict the region. Several presenters at the conference discussed how short duration, high-intensity thunderstorms over recently burned areas can cause flooding with very little warning time and high concentrations of sediment and debris in drainage basins that rarely see flowing water.

It was the threat of these types of flood events after the 2014-2015 wildfires in central Washington that led to the formation of the Washington Post-Wildfire Flood Committee (PWFC). The PWFC was formed under the umbrella of the Washington Silver Jackets Team. Like the Silver Jackets team, the PWFC is not centrally funded, nor does it carry any specific decision-making authority, but its members work together to coordinate collection and sharing of technical data, best practices, status of flood risk projects after fires, and outreach and distribution of flood-after-fire materials.

USACE provided funding to the Silver Jackets team and the PWFC in 2018 to expand the outreach piece of their mission, including the development of a website to help manage post-fire flood risks. The site is now available at www.afterthefirewa.org.

The original intent of the website was to offer flood risk resources to the residents, communities, and agencies impacted by fires. But through several workshops and conversations with those close to the recovery efforts from the Okanogan and Carlton fires, it was realized that the web page needed to offer more than just flood risk information in order to be fully utilized and valued by the public. Thus, in addition to flood risk information, the site now offers tips for impacted homeowners, tools for community organizations, an annotated library of technical resources, and more.

The After the Fire website is still in its “beta” version. Both the content and design will continue to grow and improve over the next several months. The PWFC is seeking feedback to improve the site’s accessibility and usefulness. They ask: for those with previous experience in post-fire response and recovery, what online resources did you and your stakeholders or neighbors need most? Can you find that critical information on the website? What is missing or confusing? To send comments, please reach out via email.

It was said at NORMFA again and again: don’t just plan for the wildfire; plan for the recovery, too. Through the After the Fire website, the PWFC is attempting to improve access and utilization of critical planning and recovery information before the fire starts.


A version of this article was originally published in the Strategic Alliance for Risk Reduction (STARR) News from Region 10 newsletter.

Photo of Flood damage after a wildfire
Flood damage after a wildfire in Washington state


 Resilience Opportunity Identification Tool

The Corps of Engineers has developed a machine learning methodology and tool to help organizations answer the following question: "With which agencies should I partner to solve my particular resilience challenge?"

Background: The ROI Tool

The missions and operations of many government agencies are affected by evolving conditions, from changes in stakeholder needs to natural disasters that present new challenges. As these changes and their impacts become more pronounced, organizations must develop practical, tailored, and justifiable adaptation measures that will reduce risks and improve resilience. For most, these are rarely challenges to be tackled alone. But there is a bewildering array of agencies, and no complete mapping exists to help guide agencies or their stakeholders to identify the best agencies with which to collaborate. This challenge is exacerbated a lack of familiarity with each candidate agency and their programs, especially during disaster preparedness and recovery. The Resilience Opportunity Identification (ROI) Tool aims to address this issue by helping organizations answer the question: with which agencies should I partner to solve my particular problem?

How it works

The ROI tool uses machine learning to learn the core themes integral to each Federal agency. Here, we use the agency Strategic Plans, which are approved by the Office of Management and Budget and periodically updated at their request. The natural language processing model evaluates word usage in each agency’s Strategic Plan and links words to learned thematic concepts, identifying the core topics aligned to each agency. Once these topics are learned, the trained algorithm can be applied to new text – namely the needs statements or other descriptions prepared by a community or organization seeking a Federal collaborative partner – identifying which topics are discussed in that text.

Graphic of Machine Learning - Natural Language Processing Explained
Overview: Training a natural language processing model and applying it to new text

The ROI Tool then uses statistical measures to score the similarity between the new text’s topic breakdown and the topic breakdown of each individual Federal agency, returning a score between zero and one for each Federal agency (where a score of one implies a near perfect match thematically to a particular agency and a score of zero implies there is little in common).

In practice, these findings can be used to help inform flood risk management in several ways. Generally, the ROI Tool can identify the optimal collaborative partner(s), as it outputs a rank-ordering of candidate agencies (based on their mission’s similarity to the organization’s need). These rankings may produce surprise matches that prompt the consideration of non-traditional mission partners. If there was a particular Federal program in mind, the findings can either reinforce that assumption or help refine the assumption to produce a more optimal partnership.

Applying the ROI Tool to the FY20 Interagency Nonstructural Proposals

This summer, we applied the ROI Tool to the text contained in all of the FY20 FPMS Interagency Nonstructural Flood Risk Management Proposals, with the objective to: (1) provide valuable feedback to applicants, and (2) evaluate the generalizability of the tool’s underlying method. Each proposal had multiple text fields, but the two most important fields – the field describing the project proposal and the field providing more detail – were used together as a text representation of that project’s objectives. The ROI algorithm was applied to each proposal in turn, returning a rank-ordered list of candidate agencies for each. As a final output, each proposal applicant was provided with a custom report of their ROI Tool scores, with the objective of helping these applicants identify the optimal partner to drive their objectives forward following the assessment.

We aggregated the proposal evaluations into a heat map with the proposals shown in columns and the agencies in rows. Boxes in red represent stronger matches in the heat map of the proposal scores shown below. Overall, the spread of high scores across all agencies shows that neither the proposals, nor the ROI method, were biased toward any particular agency, though the natural weighting toward expected candidate agencies helps validate the accuracy of the method. It is also worth noting that some proposals received their strongest similarity scores with agencies that less frequently received high scores (e.g., NOAA). This reinforces assumption that every proposal is unique and has its own distinctive set of requirements and objectives.

Graphic of Heat Map of Topic Similarity
Heat map of agency topic similarity scores for the interagency nonstructural proposals

What’s ahead?

Over the next few months, the development team is focusing on testing and validating the tool for public, production access. This involves testing the generalizability of the method and the experience of the tool itself. If you would like to participate in the beta testing of the ROI tool, or learn more about the tool and its uses, please contact the authors (Kathleen White, USACE Climate Preparedness and Resilience Community of Practice lead, Headquarters and Aaron Sant-Miller, Senior Lead Data Scientist, Booz Allen Hamilton).

 National Mitigation Investment Strategy

On 13 August 2019 FEMA released the National Mitigation Investment Strategy. This strategy was developed through extensive interagency coordination, including other federal agencies, state, local, and tribal government agencies, as well as academia and non-governmental organizations. The strategy is intended to improve the coordination and effectiveness of mitigation investments, defined as risk management actions taken to avoid, reduce, or transfer risks from natural hazards. USACE was part of the interagency team that developed the strategy and will participate as part of the interagency team that implements the strategy moving forward. For more information on the strategy, please visit: https://www.fema.gov/national-mitigation-investment-strategy.


Engineering With Nature® Publication a Resource for Flood Risk Management Practitioners

By Holly Kuzmitski, ERDC PAO

“Engineering With Nature®: an Atlas,” was launched at a festive event hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for more than 120 guests from private industry, academia and U.S. and international government agencies at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. on January 16, 2019. Described by Corps of Engineers Director of Civil Works James Dalton as an “effective communication tool for the EWN® initiative,” the book highlights 56 unique and successful projects from around the world — of particular importance to flood risk management practitioners are the 30 descriptions of Natural and Nature-Based Features projects.

The EWN initiative was established by the Corps in 2010 to promote more sustainable water resources practices and projects through the intentional alignment of natural and engineering processes to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental and social benefits through collaboration.

Mary Bryant, a research hydraulic engineer who works primarily on coastal flooding research with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Coastal and Hydraulic Laboratory, said, “I think the overarching purpose of the book is to change your mindset. The examples and photos help you to better visualize EWN opportunities — the book gets you thinking about how to use natural systems to maximum benefit; it shows you how to think creatively about projects.”

The EWN approach is defined by four critical elements: using science and engineering to produce operational efficiencies; using natural processes to maximize benefit; increasing the value provided by projects to include social, environmental, and economic benefits; and using collaborative processes to organize, engage, and focus interests, stakeholders and partners.

Each project is summarized on the section’s first page and followed with narratives that describe how the project fits the four critical elements. “It was nice to see the key elements specifically addressed — what they mean when they are actually applied to projects as opposed to discussing them as simply concepts,” Bryant said. “There was clear illustration of the concepts, highlighted by concrete examples. It helped to clarify what the key points of EWN are.”

The use of Natural and Nature-Based Features is one facet of the EWN initiative that has been growing internationally. NNBF are natural or created (nature-based) landscape features — such as beaches and dunes, islands, forests, wetlands and reefs — that provide engineering solutions to flood risk management challenges; the features also provide multi-tiered economic, environmental and social benefits. Projects that fall under this category were designated by the NNBF symbol.

“The (NNBF) callouts are helpful because we’re able to focus on those projects with special relevance to flood risk management practitioners: projects that focus on both flood risk management and ecosystem restoration goals,” Bryant said. “The photos give you a general idea about the scale of each project — some projects have a smaller footprint,” she said. “You also get a basic introduction of how something like the concrete reefballs were positioned, for example.”

One example of an NNBF project that addresses coastal flooding is the Long Beach Island Coastal Storm Damage Reduction project, featured in the “Beaches and Dunes” chapter. A joint effort by the Philadelphia District and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the project was completed in 2016. The NNBF, a berm and dune that were extended along the oceanside of the island, were built with sand procured from offshore sources. The features deliver social and economic benefits as they diminish erosion and protect Long Beach Island communities from flooding that can result from extreme weather events.

A photo of the Philadelphia District pumping sand onto Brant Beach, N.J., in 2013.
The Philadelphia District pumps sand onto Brant Beach, N.J., in 2013. The work was part of an effort to restore the coastal storm risk management project from damages associated with Hurricane Sandy.  (Photo by Philadelphia District)

Riverine flood mitigation is addressed in the Missouri River Levee Setbacks description, which was in the chapter, “Levee Setbacks and Floodplains.” This description, which outlines another NNBF project, discusses the relocation of a Levee L-575 segment by the Corps and partners from the levee’s previous position near the riverbanks to a location further back. The project reconnected part of the Missouri River to its floodplain, increased flood conveyance and improved the levee system’s resilience.

An aerial panoramic photo of Missouri River Levee L-575 Setback project, 2012.
An aerial panoramic view of Missouri River Levee L-575 Setback project, 2012. (Photo by Dave Crane. Omaha District)

The flood risk management practitioner can also gain insights from other projects in the book. The “Riverine Systems” chapter outlines the 2017 Springhouse Run Stream Restoration project in Washington, D.C., where a state-of-the-art Regenerative Design process was deployed by Underwood and Associates. The process helped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners transform pollutant-tainted water into a stream that self-cleans as it conveys water to larger bodies, harmonizes with the aesthetics of the U.S. National Arboretum and is a source of pride to the local community.

A photo of a stream in the Springhouse Run Stream Restoration project in Washington, D.C.
A section of restored stream that abuts a mature stand of hardwoods in the Springhouse Run Stream Restoration project in Washington, D.C. The project was a collaboration between USFWS and other partner organizations. (Photo by Tim Welp, ERDC)

Another goal behind the publication’s creation was to inspire idea sharing between the Corps and Corps partners. For Catherine Wright, a director of Flood and Coastal Risk Management at the Environment Agency in London, United Kingdom, the book will be used as a teaching tool for practitioners in her country to show what EWN can do. Her organization contributed nine projects to the book, with most focusing on mitigating flood risk. “We’ll also be learning from each other about approaches for engaging communities,” she said.

Don McNeill, director of the Natural Infrastructure Initiative and Strategic Growth Manager for Caterpillar Inc., delivered a stakeholder perspective at the book launch. He described his organization as a grouping of like-minded companies and nongovernmental organizations that came together in 2017 to provide a collective national voice to promote and accelerate the advancement of natural solutions. AECOM, Caterpillar Inc., Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company and The Nature Conservancy are a few member companies. “The ‘Atlas’ demonstrates and brings awareness to the many opportunities and solutions that natural infrastructure can provide,” McNeill said. “These include mitigating costs and damages from flood events. We’re very proud that several projects in the ‘Atlas’ highlight involvement with NII members.”

Dr. Lynn Scarlett, Vice President for Public Policy and Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy, also delivered a stakeholder perspective at the book launch. “The risk-reducing benefits of nature’s assets are not hypothetical,” she said. “The Conservancy and other researchers have modelled storm surge and damages from Hurricane Sandy; for example, we found that coastal wetlands prevented almost $625M in property damages.”

“I am thrilled, and the Conservancy is thrilled to work with the Corps,” Scarlett said, describing a project in Hamilton, California, that combines setback levees with floodplain restoration to reduce flood damage and enhance riparian habitat, benefitting both people and nature. “It illustrates the blending of built and natural infrastructure,” she said. “The Corps is helping to pioneer 21st century thinking about infrastructure and how to engineer with nature.”

“Engineering With Nature®: an Atlas” can be accessed online at http://www.engineeringwithnature.org/.


 Beta Version of Searchable Federal Flood Risk Management Programs Web Site Available

In December 2018, the USACE National Flood Risk Management Program, in coordination with a variety of other Federal Agencies, soft launched the beta version of the "Federal Flood Risk Management Programs" web site. The web site provides summaries of 120 Federal programs across 11 federal agencies that relate in some way to flood risk management. Users can search for the programs most relevant to their needs using filters such as potential program APPLICANT, flood risk management cycle PHASE, and TYPE of assistance being sought.  Search results provide summaries of Federal programs and links to additional information about each program. 

Graphic of Federal Flood Risk Management website home page
Federal Flood Risk Management Programs Beta web site has launched!

With release of this beta version, the development team is both sharing information about the programs and looking for feedback.  Please check out the site, share it with others, and provide constructive feedback so we can make the next version even better!


 USACE Levee Portfolio Report

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.

 Folsom Dam Auxiliary Spillway Completion, Sacramento, CA

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

 Building a Foundation for Resiliency

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.

 Coastal Resilience: The Role of Dune Vegetation

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).

 Co-located U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Weather Service Staff During the 2017 Mississippi River Flood

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 Offers an Extension to the Deadline for Review of Implementation Procedures for EO 11988, Floodplain Management, as amended by EO 13690, Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input

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.

 USACE-Rijkswaterstaat Collaboration

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.


 New Modeling Capabilities with HEC-RAS 5.0

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.


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.

 Flood Risk Management Workshop

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.


 Silver Jackets Website Redesigned

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.

 USACE Considers Changes to PL 84-99

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.


 Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

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.

 North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study Report Issued

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.

 2014 Interagency Flood Risk Management Project Workshop

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.

 USACE Issues Interim Policy on Rehabilitation Assistance Eligibility

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.


 North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study Advances

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 https://www.nad.usace.army.mil/CompStudy.aspx

 Infrastructure Systems Rebuilding Principles

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.



2013 Flood Risk Management - Silver Jackets Webinar Week:  Efficient, Effective, Connected

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. 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.

 Program Management Plan Provides Additional Guidance for USACE Flood Risk Management Program

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.

 Hurricane Sandy: Moving from Response to Recovery

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.


USACE Hosts 248 Flood Risk Management Professionals at Workshop

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.

 Learning from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

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.
 National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorized for 5 years

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.