U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Engineering With Nature® Initiative

Policy Research and Future Directions of Applying Engineering With Nature® in USACE Programs


The Challenge

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Engineering With Nature® Initiative works toward better integration and alignment of traditional “grey” infrastructure approaches with nature-based infrastructure approaches. Currently, the benefit-cost analysis (BCA) places a substantial emphasis on the dollar value of the properties a proposed project would protect. However, the science of quantifying the environmental and social costs and benefits of nature-based solutions has drastically improved over the years, and if applied, could provide a more complete assessment of how such nature-based solutions complement and enhance traditional infrastructure projects. This applied policy research project considers how to best quantify, and potentially monetize, the full range of economic, environmental, and social costs and 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.

The Approach

The USACE EWN® Initiative has selected The Water Institute of the Gulf to analyze existing policies and provide guidance on improving federal practice around the country to better consider the economic, environmental, and social benefits of nature infrastructure and nature-based solutions.

The Water Institute team will work with the USACE to identify and evaluate a number of completed Chief’s Reports to determine if there is an opportunity to further quantify the environmental and social costs and benefits of proposed nature-based solutions, including factors that may have contributed to prioritization of conventional over natural infrastructure as well as benefits that may not have been fully captured by the current approach.

Based on insights gathered in analyzing the selected Chief’s Reports, the Water Institute will perform a policy analysis of the environmental and social costs and benefits that might have been further quantified and determine how that would have impacted the BCA. As part of this effort, the Water Institute organized an Engineering With Nature Technical Review Summit in Washington, D.C. to bring together government, nonprofit, academic and private sector collaborators to contribute to the effort. More information about the summit held on Nov. 30, 2022 is available here.