Adaptation Policy and Plan
Water resources infrastructure, both constructed and natural, manages hydrologic extremes and reduces the risks associated with too much or too little water. Climate change directly impacts temperature, and precipitation, and hence floods and droughts. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) must be able to perform our missions and operations despite dynamic conditions, whether these result from climate change alone or in combination with other global changes such as demographic shifts, land use/land cover changes, world population growth, aging infrastructure, persistent conflict, declining biodiversity, globalization, climate variability and change, and changing social values and economic conditions.
In June 2011, Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, released a Policy Statement (pdf, 201 KB) that calls for integrating climate change adaptation into all that USACE does. The Policy Statement also points out that we should do this now based on the best available and actionable science and that we should consider climate change impacts when undertaking long-term planning, setting priorities, and making decisions. The Policy Statement says that "Mainstreaming climate change adaptation means that it will be considered at every step in the project life cycle for all USACE projects, both existing and planned… to reduce vulnerabilities and enhance the resilience of our water-resource infrastructure."
The Policy Statement establishes the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works as the Agency official responsible for ensuring implementation of all aspects of this policy. Through this Policy, USACE establishes the USACE Climate Change Adaptation Steering Committee to oversee and coordinate agency-wide climate change adaptation planning and implementation.
Mainstreaming adaptation, as described in the Policy Statement, combined with the actions taken to improve energy and water conservation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as described in the USACE Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan prepared in response to Executive Order 13514, will help us adapt to impacts from climate change and mitigate climate change.
In mainstreaming adaptation, our goal is to develop practical, nationally consistent, legally justifiable, and cost effective measures, both structural and nonstructural, to reduce vulnerabilities and improve the resilience of our water resources infrastructure impacted by climate change and other global changes.
The USACE recognizes the very significant differences between climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation in terms of physical complexity, fiscal and material resources, level of knowledge and technical readiness, and temporal and geographic scale. Because of these differences, understanding and implementing climate adaptation policies and measures requires very different knowledge, skills, and abilities than implementing mitigation measures. As a result, the Climate Change Adaptation Steering Committee is chaired by the Chief, Engineering and Construction.
FY 2012 Adaptation Plan and Report (Released for Public Comment Period on 7 February 2013)
In accordance with the March 2011 Implementing Instructions, USACE prepared and submitted a 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report (pdf, 2.13 MB) to CEQ and OMB. This Plan and Report is included as an Appendix to the USACE FY12 Sustainability Plan.
The USACE 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report is a product of the USACE Adaptation Steering Committee in support of the USACE Senior POC for Adaptation, ASA/CW Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy, and represents an update to the 2011 Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report (see below).
The Adaptation Steering Committee, chaired by Chief of Engineering Mr. James C. Dalton, PE, has actively promoted the development of policy and guidance to improve the resilience and decrease the vulnerability of our missions, operations, programs, projects, and systems of projects to the effects of climate change and variability. USACE has been working actively with its partners and stakeholders to develop consistent national policy and guidance based on the best available and actionable science. A brief overview of progress on policy and guidance is attached here. (pdf, 385 KB)
USACE is pleased to receive public review and comments on this Agency Adaptation Plan. Please provide public comments to Ms. Candice S. Walters by email at Candice.S.Walters@usace.army.mil or mailed to Ms. Walters at Headquarters, US Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Office (CEPA), 441 G St., NW, Washington, DC 20314.
Adaptation strategies and policies are needed to support the continuing ability of water resources infrastructure to reduce the risks posed by climate change. The USACE Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report 2011 (pdf, 2.88 MB), revised in September 2011, is the USACE response to the Implementing Instructions. The Report also answers the guiding questions posed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality in the Implementing Instructions and describes our progress and future priorities.
USACE is taking a collaborative partnering approach with other Federal agencies that takes advantage of our different perspectives and expertise so our progress on adaptation reflects the best available and actionable science. USACE is also working to help guide the science related to adaptation to better meet USACE needs and the needs of other land and water resources agencies.
Our approach is phased, allowing us to identify uncertainties, whether in climate projections or in systems responses so we begin adaptation in areas where uncertainties are relatively smaller and the risk of adverse or unintended consequences is lower.
We are developing and implementing plans, policies, and infrastructure adaptation in parallel, rather than sequentially, so adaptation begins soonest for projects that are most vulnerable. These efforts include:
Fiscal Year 2011 and 2012 Priorities
As described in our FY 2011 and FY 2012 Adaptation Plans and Reports, our highest priorities for FY11 and FY12 include:
The White House Council on Environmental Quality issued a set of Implementing Instructions for Federal Agency Climate Change Adaptation on 4 March 2011 in response to the growing awareness that Federal agencies must begin to plan for and adapt to climate change.
This awareness stemmed from a growing body of evidence that climate has always changed and will change in the future, both globally and locally. Extensive records from ice cores, tree rings, sediment cores, glacier lengths and others, as summarized in a 2006 National Research Council report demonstrate the changing nature of climate. These changes can occur either gradually or abruptly. The best available scientific evidence based on observations from long-term monitoring networks indicates that climate change is occurring, with effects differing regionally.
revised 8 February 2013