Institute for Water Resources

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Value to the Nation

Coasts: Environmental Benefits

Our nation’s coastal areas support diverse ecosystems housing hundreds of species of fish, birds, and other wildlife, including many that are rare, threatened or endangered. These fragile ecosystems are vulnerable to storms and economic development.

The Corps is dedicated to protecting and restoring these important ecosystems. For example, the Corps has been the lead agency on over 25 percent of the 300 completed projects recognized by Coastal America. Coastal America is an interagency ecosystem restoration effort.

Part of this effort is shore protection, which is used to rebuild or retain man-made structures and natural systems located landward of the shoreline. Shore protection contributes to storm damage reduction and coastal erosion mitigation.

The Corps also has been actively involved in efforts to preserve and restore the 11,600 miles of shoreline along the Chesapeake Bay. Corps efforts have included restoring oyster beds and wetlands, reducing erosion, and cleaning up contaminated sites. Working in cooperation with a number of other federal and state agencies the Corps has helped restore 3,800 miles of riparian forest buffers, preserved over 6 million acres of land and re-opened 1,500 miles of river to migratory fish in the Chesapeake Bay area.

Other efforts focus on the restoration of coastal beaches, dunes and wetlands, which serve as valuable protection against flooding and provide important habitats for many rare, threatened and endangered species.

One of the Corps’ most innovative and comprehensive efforts to address coastal issues from a broader perspective is the Regional Sediment Management Demonstration initiative. Many coastal areas have either too much or too little sediment. Too much will lead to blocked river channels and smothered reefs. Too little will lead to beach habitat erosion and wetland loss. The regional management program is designed to better balance sediment needs. This initiative has fostered a series of efforts across the country involving partnerships among federal and state agencies and private organizations aimed at developing regional approaches to the management of sediment.

The RSM partnerships established in the NE Gulf of Mexico proved especially valuable after Hurricane Ivan. Sand removed from Perdido Pass was used to restore beach habitat at Gulf State Park at the request of resource management agencies. This opportunity was made a reality because the coordinated knowledge and relationships established around the RSM concept in the region enabled rapid identification of sediments needs and opportunities, as well as streamlining of regulatory processes.