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BUILDING CLIMATE RESILIENCE: North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study

USACE
Published April 24, 2015
On January 29, 2013, President Obama signed into law the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, of 2013 (Public Law 113-2), to assist in the recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As part of the law, the Congress tasked the Corps to work with a variety of partners to conduct a comprehensive study of the coastal areas affected by Hurricane Sandy to evaluate flood risks and, that as part of the study, to identify areas warranting additional analysis and institutional and other barriers to providing protection. (Chapter 4 of Public Law 113-2).  

The 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.

In addition to State, regional, and local governments, FEMA, NOAA, multiple DOI agencies and HUD were major contributors to this study.

On January 29, 2013, President Obama signed into law the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, of 2013 (Public Law 113-2), to assist in the recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As part of the law, the Congress tasked the Corps to work with a variety of partners to conduct a comprehensive study of the coastal areas affected by Hurricane Sandy to evaluate flood risks and, that as part of the study, to identify areas warranting additional analysis and institutional and other barriers to providing protection. (Chapter 4 of Public Law 113-2). The 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. In addition to State, regional, and local governments, FEMA, NOAA, multiple DOI agencies and HUD were major contributors to this study.

Many communities along the Northeast remain vulnerable to coastal flooding. The Comprehensive Study identified nine high-risk focus areas that warrant additional analysis. They are (in no particular order): 1) Rhode Island Coastline; 2) Connecticut Coastline; 3) New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries; 4) Nassau County Back Bays, New York; 5) New Jersey Back Bays; 6) Delaware Inland Bays and Delaware Bay Coast; 7) the City of Baltimore; 8) the District of Columbia; and the 9) the City of Norfolk.

Many communities along the Northeast remain vulnerable to coastal flooding. The Comprehensive Study identified nine high-risk focus areas that warrant additional analysis. They are (in no particular order): 1) Rhode Island Coastline; 2) Connecticut Coastline; 3) New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries; 4) Nassau County Back Bays, New York; 5) New Jersey Back Bays; 6) Delaware Inland Bays and Delaware Bay Coast; 7) the City of Baltimore; 8) the District of Columbia; and the 9) the City of Norfolk.

The North Atlantic Comprehensive Study was a $19 million study to develop a risk reduction framework for the 31,200 miles of coastline within the North Atlantic Division affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The North Atlantic Comprehensive Study was a $19 million study to develop a risk reduction framework for the 31,200 miles of coastline within the North Atlantic Division affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released to the public 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 the North Atlantic region of the United States affected by Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012.  Congress authorized this report in January 2013 in the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 (Public Law 113-2).

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released to the public 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 the North Atlantic region of the United States affected by Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012. Congress authorized this report in January 2013 in the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 (Public Law 113-2).

The North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study report includes a nine-step Coastal Storm Risk Management Framework that was developed to help all stakeholders, not solely the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, identify their risk of coastal flooding and evaluate the full range of strategies available to reduce those risks. The Framework can be customized to any size coastal watershed, is repeatable at state and local scales, and is transferable to other areas of the country.

The North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study report includes a nine-step Coastal Storm Risk Management Framework that was developed to help all stakeholders, not solely the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, identify their risk of coastal flooding and evaluate the full range of strategies available to reduce those risks. The Framework can be customized to any size coastal watershed, is repeatable at state and local scales, and is transferable to other areas of the country.

Managing coastal storm risk is a shared responsibility by all levels of government and individual property owners. Not all strategies to reduce risks are engineered solutions. Communities should consider adopting a combination of strategies that emphasize wise use of the floodplain and include structural, non-structural, natural and nature-based features, and programmatic measures to manage risk. Improved land use planning, responsible evacuation planning, and strategic retreat are important and cost-effective actions that are proven to reduce coastal flood risks. But no matter what risk reduction strategies are taken, there will always be residual risk.

Managing coastal storm risk is a shared responsibility by all levels of government and individual property owners. Not all strategies to reduce risks are engineered solutions. Communities should consider adopting a combination of strategies that emphasize wise use of the floodplain and include structural, non-structural, natural and nature-based features, and programmatic measures to manage risk. Improved land use planning, responsible evacuation planning, and strategic retreat are important and cost-effective actions that are proven to reduce coastal flood risks. But no matter what risk reduction strategies are taken, there will always be residual risk.

BROOKLYN, NY -- A recently released U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report concludes that the risk of coastal flooding is increasing in the Northeast because of rising sea levels and changing climate, and that without improvements to our current planning and development patterns along the coast, the impact of the next large hurricane to strike the Northeast could be equal to or worse than Sandy.

These results are part of the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study, a two-year effort by the Corps and its Federal, state, local, and non-governmental partners, to assess the flood risks facing coastal communities and ecosystems and collaboratively develop a coastal storm risk management framework to address increasing risks, which are driven in part by increased frequency and intensity of storm events and rising sea levels due to a changing climate.

"It's our collective responsibility to use the latest sea-level change and climate change information on our current planning studies in design and implementation," said Amy Guise, the chief of planning and policy at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District. "These are actions we can take now that will help sustain our investments into the future."

The study results include shared tools that decision makers can use to assess coastal flood risks and identify solutions, including a nine-step Coastal Storm Risk Management Framework that can be used by communities, states, tribes, and the Federal government to help identify coastal risk and develop strategies for reducing those risks.

"Communities should consider adopting a combination of strategies [to reduce risk]," said Guise. "But it's important to note that no matter what risk-reduction strategies are taken, there is always residual risk. And it's important for everyone to know what that risk is."

According to the study, coastal communities face tough choices as they prepare for changing conditions while striving to preserve community values and economic vitality. But through the use of this framework and through responsible planning and development patterns along the coast, communities can start taking action now to reduce the risk of damage from future coastal storms.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers strives to provide quality and responsive services to the Nation in a manner that is environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable, and that focuses on public safety and collaborative partnerships.