U.S. Army Corps of Engineers selects Water Institute to analyze policies and procedures to better quantify environmental and social benefits for nature-based solutions

Apr 20, 2021

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Engineering With Nature (EWN®) initiative has selected The Water Institute of the Gulf to analyze how the federal benefit-cost analysis, used to select projects for construction, can more fully account for nature-based project benefits to the economy, environment and our communities.

Currently, the benefit-cost analysis (BCA) places a significant emphasis on the dollar value of the properties a proposed project would protect (in the case of flood risk management projects). However, the science of quantifying the environmental and social benefits of nature-based solutions has increased substantially over the years, and if applied, could provide a more complete assessment of how such nature-based solutions complement and enhance traditional infrastructure projects.

“Delivering infrastructure to sustain our communities, economy and environment calls upon us to innovate, modernize and even revolutionize our approach to infrastructure development. Partnering WITH nature is a vital part of delivering those solutions in the 21st century,” said Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the USACE, in his foreword to the recently published Engineering With Nature Atlas Volume 2.

Through this applied policy research project, the Water Institute will work closely with USACE staff to consider how to best evaluate and consider the full range of economic, environmental, and social benefits that nature-based solutions provide. Specific consideration will be given to instances in which nature-based solutions are strategically designed to work with conventional approaches using rock, concrete, and steel. For example, when a concrete flood wall is designed to include an expansive reef and marsh in front of it, the wall provides flood protection benefits during storms while the reef and marsh system reduce the power of waves, self-adjusts to rising seas, captures carbon, improves water quality, and provides recreational opportunities.

“Due to decades of work from collaborators around the world, the science of quantifying and monetizing environmental and social benefits has dramatically advanced. We are excited by the opportunity to build on these advancements to ensure the full range of benefits are considered in the BCA process,” said Justin Ehrenwerth, the Water Institute president and CEO. “The Corps of Engineers has a proud history of Engineering With Nature and we are honored to work closely with our colleagues across the Corps to collaboratively develop practical tools that support measuring this full range of benefits.” Read the full story here.