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Using natural infrastructure to increase resilience for military installations

Engineering With Nature® Podcast, Season 1: Episode 3

A new podcast series tells the stories of how, over the last 10 years, a growing international community of practitioners, scientists, engineers, and researchers across many disciplines and organizations are working together to combine natural and engineering systems to solve problems and diversify infrastructure value by applying the principles and practices of Engineering With Nature®.

A new podcast series tells the stories of how, over the last 10 years, a growing international community of practitioners, scientists, engineers, and researchers across many disciplines and organizations are working together to combine natural and engineering systems to solve problems and diversify infrastructure value by applying the principles and practices of Engineering With Nature®.

VICKSBURG, Miss. – In this episode of the Engineering With Nature® (EWN) Podcast, guest Brig. Gen. Patrice Melancon, executive director of the Program Management Office (PMO), Tyndall Air Force Base, U.S. Air Force, shares how she and her team are incorporating the principles and practices of Engineering With Nature (EWN) into the Air Force’s Installation of the Future initiative.

In October 2018, Tyndall Air Force Base, which is just east of Panama City, Florida, took a direct hit from Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm. With over half of the buildings on the base destroyed, the damage was significant. Melancon was called back to active duty to lead the base’s massive $5 billion rebuild. The PMO team is still undertaking groundbreaking work to reconstruct the base and incorporate EWN principles and practices into the Tyndall rebuild and the Air Force’s Installation of the Future initiative. Their intention is to create a resilient and sustainable base that will be a model for the region and potentially all other coastal areas in the U.S. With a practically ‘clean slate’ available to explore options, Melancon discusses the opportunity to fundamentally rethink what environmental and operational functions are needed for Tyndall, both now and in the future.

The PMO team is evaluating best available data and information specific to the base and its landscape. They are also considering variables that may have changed since the original buildings were constructed (e.g., flood elevation and expected wind loads). Outputs from this analysis will inform standards needed to design and construct facilities, including the infrastructure needed to accommodate the new F-35 Lightning II aircraft. This new installation must withstand present-day hazards, but it must also be able to accommodate future environmental conditions and associated risks. Concurrently, the team is using this time to evaluate the use of EWN strategies through the construction of nature-based solutions in the form of landscape features like beaches and dunes, oyster reefs and wetlands that reduce risks of flooding, while providing additional habitat for threatened and endangered species, as well as social value for Air Force personnel and the surrounding community. As she notes, “it is a re-imagining of the base.”

In this podcast, Melancon describes four pilot projects underway that incorporate EWN principles.  One of those projects includes the beneficial use of sediments to strengthen the existing beach/dune system. The goal is to use nature-based solutions to increase the resilience of the installation and the local community by reducing the risk of damage from storm surge and waves while also creating environmental as well as social benefits supporting recreation and tourism. Melancon believes that collaborating with the community and a wide range of stakeholders is important to the success of this initiative and invites interested listeners to become involved and participate in the stakeholder engagement underway at Tyndall. Listeners can share their ideas at the EWN website (www.engineeringwithnature.org) or the Coastal Resilience at Tyndall Air Force Base website (www.tyndallcoastalresilience.com).      

Engineering With Nature Podcast Series

About Engineering With Nature

Engineering With Nature (EWN) is defined as the intentional alignment of natural and engineering processes to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental and social benefits through collaboration.

Initiated in 2010 by a team of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) scientists and engineers, EWN seeks to enable and support more sustainable water and infrastructure development practices, projects and outcomes by integrating engineering and natural processes. There is a growing interest in nature-based solutions worldwide, and EWN approaches provide a means for delivering those solutions across USACE’s missions, including navigation infrastructure, flood risk management, ecosystem restoration and beyond. The collaborations and partnerships developed through EWN initiative have expanded knowledge sharing and application across government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and academia in the U.S. and internationally. 

Sustainable development of infrastructure projects presents both challenges and opportunities. Practical approaches are needed to better understand and combine natural and engineered systems, where the desired outcome is more socially acceptable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable projects. This is a goal shared by the USACE, its partner organizations, stakeholders and the public. For more information, please visit our website at: www.engineeringwithnature.org.