Introducing: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

USACE provides engineering solutions to reduce disaster risk and support economic development.


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Who Are They?

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a federal agency with a guiding mission to “deliver enduring engineering and water resource solutions to the nation, in collaboration with partners, to protect the environment, energize the economy, and strengthen our national security”. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is made up of biologists, architects, project managers, and many types of engineers to support engineering solutions to reduce disaster risk and support economic development. 

The Great Lakes and Ohio River division is comprised of three offices that support coastal work: Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo District Offices, covering the great lakes watershed. The USACE Chicago office outlines program priorities as supporting navigation, flood and coastal storm risk management, aquatic ecosystem restoration, lakes and recreation, emergency management, and regulation.

How Does USACE Support Coastal Resilience?

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is a primary source of funding used by USACE programs to support coastal resilience work. GLRI funding has five strategic focus areas including (1) Toxic substances and Areas of Concern, (2) Invasive Species, (3) Nearshore Health and Nonpoint Source Pollution, (4) Habitat and Wildlife Protection and Restoration, and (5) Accountability, Education, Monitoring, Evaluation, Communication, Partnerships. 

USACE has a handful of regional programs specifically for the Great Lakes that are being extensively used by GLRI. The Great Lakes Fishery & Ecosystem Restoration (GLFER) program is being used to plan, design, and construct projects to restore wetlands, fishery passages around dams, and controls for sea lamprey and other aquatic nuisance species. The Great Lakes Remedial Action Plan program is being used to help states and local partners plan and design actions to cleanup and delist AOCs. The Great Lakes Tributary Model program is being used to develop computer models that are used by state and local agencies to evaluate and compare alternatives for soil conservation and nonpoint source pollution prevention.

Tools and Data 

USACE publishes daily, monthly, and annual water level reports on a data dashboard based on monitoring stations and data collection sites managed by USACE. You can also find water level forecasts based on various models and plausible future scenarios. This data is generated in partnership with other federal agencies like NOAA, USGS, and ECCC. 

Great Lakes Coastal Resilience Study 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently signed a partnership agreement with all eight Great Lakes state coastal management programs to conduct a Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study This is a first of its kind project operating at a massive scale, encompassing the entire great lakes coastal area. This project is led by Michael Padilla of the Chicago District Office. The study will assess coastal resources over a range of future conditions and develop a watershed plan to support the management of Great Lakes coastal resources, and the identification, selection, and prioritization of resilient coastal investments. Without an integrated plan that identifies vulnerable areas and identifies measures to improve resilience, federal, state, and local jurisdictions will continue to utilize a piecemeal approach that is both inefficient and limited in effectiveness.This watershed study will integrate and build upon substantial efforts and regional partnerships funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and other federal and state programs, increasing returns on existing investments.

Connect with USACE

In Wisconsin, the Chicago District office can offer technical assistance on coastal projects including erosion control, wetland restoration, and more. Contact the Chicago office to connect with a specialist. 

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To learn more, connect with the Great Lakes and Ohio River District.