Environmental Justice Overview

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income regarding the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies, with no group bearing a disproportionate burden of environmental harms and risks. For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, environmental justice and disproportionate impacts to disadvantaged communities are considered throughout the agency’s Civil Works programs and in all phases of project planning and decision-making. Environmental justice is achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protections and equal access to Civil Works programs and services to achieve a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work. In studying, planning, designing, constructing, and operating USACE Civil Works projects or providing assistance, USACE works to meet the needs of disadvantaged communities by reducing disparate environmental burdens, removing barriers to participation in decision-making, and increasing access to benefits provided by Civil Works programs to disadvantaged communities within USACE authorities.
USACE will work to accommodate and encourage participation of all communities as partners in the assessments of need, studies, planning development, and project implementation. If adverse effects of Civil Works programs and services are identified, USACE will take steps to avoid, minimize, or mitigate those impacts to the greatest extent reasonable. USACE will not work to achieve these goals alone, but rather collaboratively with other federal, state, and local governments, Tribes, and communities to ensure the Civil Works program delivers benefits to all citizens in impacted communities. In general, USACE Civil Works environmental justice efforts are focused on:
  • Improving outreach and access to USACE Civil Works information and resources.
  • Improving access to USACE Civil Works technical service programs (e.g., Planning Assistance to States and Floodplain Management Services programs) and maximizing the reach of Civil Works projects to benefit disadvantaged communities, in particular as it relates to climate resiliency.
  • Ensuring that any updates to USACE Civil Works policies and guidance will not result in a disproportionate adverse impact on disadvantaged communities.

Community Outreach and Engagement

In March 2022, the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) directed USACE to develop an outreach strategy that “should capitalize on a broad range of community meetings and other organized community-level opportunities and engage communities to truly listen to their needs.” The USACE Interim Environmental Justice Strategic Plan: Community Outreach and Engagement outlines USACE’s approach to meeting that goal by focusing on seven core objectives:

  • Improving the timing and quality of outreach to local communities and access to USACE Civil Works information and resources.
  • Forming strong partnerships within and outside of the government to strengthen underserved and disadvantaged community participation in USACE programs and activities. Outreach and Engagement White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
  • Developing and optimizing USACE resources to broaden internal expertise through the continual refinement and application of tools, training, and products centered on environmental justice. 
  • Strengthening Tribal relationships by taking advantage of opportunities to listen and increase effective communication while enhancing USACE’s ability to understand and respond to Tribal water resources needs.
  • Improving awareness, access, and participation in USACE Civil Works technical assistance programs while maximizing assistance that benefits underserved and disadvantaged communities.
  • Forming effective partnerships, early engagement, and ensuring comprehensive analysis of a full range of benefits for USACE studies and programs.
  • Developing whole-of-government solutions, where possible, for all aspects and phases of USACE Civil Works programs, from study development to construction and operation of projects. Execution of these objectives will increase the timeliness and quality of outreach while we continue to build strong and meaningful relationships with communities throughout the country. We will focus on delivering whole-of-government solutions, understanding that not just one agency or level of government can always be the solution to the problems that a community is experiencing. We will also continually assess and enhance our workforce, building the capabilities and resources to overcome barriers and address equity issues where needed.

Contact Us

For more information on local outreach and engagement efforts, please contact your local USACE District Environmental Justice Coordinator here.