Great Lakes Partners pursue Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District
Published Feb. 19, 2019

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers takes the responsibility of managing our Nation’s water resources seriously, especially when it comes to planning for the increasing magnitude and frequency of hazards that impact our coasts. That is why USACE Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, including Buffalo District, are pursuing the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency study.

This effort would provide value to the nation as an infrastructure investment strategy for the Great Lakes coast that is proactive, rather than waiting for disaster to occur before deciding to invest in resiliency.

“Buffalo District has two Great Lakes within our area of responsibility, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario,” said LTC Jason Toth, Buffalo District Commander.  “We want to make sure that we are taking care of these waters and the people affected by these waters, by looking at the Great Lakes coastline across the five lakes.”

Enhanced coastal resiliency, means the building of a community’s ability to withstand, recover, and adapt when hazardous natural events, such as coastal storms and flooding occur.  The study represents an investment in a strategy to protect the Great Lakes coastal infrastructure, including both the natural and built environments.

“Coastal systems are increasingly vulnerable to flooding due to the combined influence of coastal storms, development and population growth, geomorphic change, and sea level rise,” as reported by the U.S. Army Research and Development Center (ERDC) report, titled Use of Natural and Nature-Based Features for Coastal Resiliency, published in January 2015.

The goal of the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency study is to develop a programmatic coastal resiliency plan that outlines a collaborative investment strategy for the Great Lakes coasts, while creating a partnership and strong collaboration between the Corps of Engineers, Great Lake states, the Coastal States Organization, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geographical Survey, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Building coastal resiliency requires rethinking our approach to balancing coastal hazards, environmental benefits, and natural functions,” said Joshua Unghire, Buffalo District Ecologist. “This must be done with an understanding of the factors that affect our coastlines, how they are changing, and what our long term goals are for our coastal communities and environment.”

The study will include the development of tools for federal agencies, state agencies and coastal communities to use supporting informed decision-making along the Great Lakes shorelines.

Each state bordering the Great Lakes has their coastal management program agencies working with the USACE Great Lakes and Ohio River Division to help the Corps of Engineers develop the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study.  Specifically, Buffalo District has been coordinating with the New York State Department of State, Office of Planning, Development, and Community Infrastructure, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Office of Coastal Management.

“Coastal resiliency is a critically important theme that will guide much of our District’s work moving forward for the next generation,” said David Schulenburg, Buffalo District Planning Branch Chief.  “This particular study would provide an invaluable platform to proactively identify problems and opportunities along the coast, and synchronize approaches to improve resiliency at the Federal, state and local level.”

The scope, schedule, and budget for the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study is being refined this year with intent to be submitted for consideration of funding in the fiscal year 2020 Corps of Engineers’ budget.