Systems Approach to Geomorphic Engineering


A Systems Approach to Geomorphic Engineering addresses coastal hazards at the landscape scale by coordinating across jurisdictions to advance green and gray solutions that contribute to the resiliency of our communities, ecosystems, and shorelines.

Systems Approach to Geomorphic Engineering (SAGE)

Systems Approach to Geomorphic Engineering (SAGE) is a Community of Practice that brings together experts and practitioners from federal and state government, non-profit organizations, academia, and the private sector to:

  • Promote the integration of green and grey solutions for coastal resilience
  • Encourage regional, landscape-scale planning
  • Amplify policies that incentivize the use of natural and nature-based features
  • Improve communication, coordination, and collaboration across jurisdictions
  • Connect coastal practitioners and existing groups that are working on natural infrastructure at different scales

Our coastal areas face escalating risks from hazards such as severe storms, sea-level rise, and shifting precipitation patterns. The SAGE Community of Practice takes a comprehensive view of shoreline change, with the goal of increasing resilience for both people and nature at the landscape scale. The systems approach principle of SAGE recognizes that resilience depends on local needs and conditions, and that it is crucial to consider the full spectrum of green and grey techniques that can be used and integrated within a watershed. SAGE focuses on solutions that maximize both flood protection and ecological benefits, are informed by natural costal processes, and protect and enhance natural coastal features when possible.

Our knowledge about how to implement natural infrastructure is constantly evolving. The SAGE Community of Practice is a forum where practitioners working on natural infrastructure at different scales share best practices, cultivate partnerships, and explore innovative ideas. SAGE has several ongoing initiatives to provide resources for navigating the complex policy landscape and facilitate collaboration across jurisdictions at the federal, state, and local level.

Funding and Financing Natural Infrastructure: Best Practices

A key need for implementing more natural infrastructure is funding to scope, design, construct, monitor, and adaptively manage these projects. SAGE and the USACE Engineering With Nature program have collaboratively developed a series of case studies to share innovative examples of funding and financing natural infrastructure.

  • South Bay Salt Pond Restoration: strong planning and partnerships sustain the largest wetland restoration project on the West Coast
  • Exploration Green: Leveraging social capital for a biodiverse and flood-resilient community space
  • Elizabeth River Project: Capturing multiple benefits to enhance water quality and flood protection along an urban river
  • Hunter’s Point South Park: Affordable housing and green/gray design join forces to revitalize a waterfront neighborhood

Natural Infrastructure Policy Resources

SAGE is developing a suite of resources related to policies that advance the use of natural infrastructure, both internal to USACE and at the state level. These resources will include:

  • An analysis of USACE policies and guidance that encourage the use of natural and nature-based features in Civil Works projects.
  • An online database of state-level policy instruments that encourage a systems approach to implementing natural infrastructure projects. The database will include information about legislation, regulations, programs, plans, and incentives.

Natural and Structural Measures for Shoreline Stabilization Brochure

USACE and NOAA collaboratively developed an informative brochure that provides an overview of different types of shoreline solutions. This document is a great handout to help people learn about the spectrum of natural and nature-based features.


Ecosystem Governance, Restoration, and Equity Tool (EGRET)

SAGE is developing EGRET, a geospatial decision-support tool designed for USACE coastal planners to identify optimal locations for natural infrastructure development in coastal communities. The tool incorporates information on physical hazards, critical natural resources, and social vulnerability to identify areas that are exposed and vulnerable to a range of coastal hazards. EGRET is intended to help prioritize underrepresented communities in USACE planning processes.

An interagency public/private partnership that coordinates natural infrastructure efforts across jurisdictions and scales.

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