United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

General Investigations (GI)

The USACE General Investigations program undertakes studies that are designed to help address community water resource issues in areas such as flood risk management, navigation, water supply, and recreation, including ecosystem restoration activities. These studies, initially requested through Congressional representatives, are authorized through Congressional subcommittee resolutions and are carried out in partnership with a non-federal sponsor. During a study the Corps will evaluate the feasibility of alternative plans by determining costs, benefits, and favorable or unfavorable characteristics. Following this analysis a specific course of action is then ultimately recommended to Congress, at which point Congress can authorize and fund the construction of the project. USACE also has direct authority to oversee small-scale flood risk management projects that do not require specific Congressional authorizations.

During construction USACE and the non-federal sponsor enter into a Local Cooperation Agreement (LCA) that obligates both parties to carry out the implementation, operation, and maintenance of the project in accordance with Congressional requirements. Projects are distributed among USACE district offices based on location. Upon completion USACE will periodically inspect the project but operation and maintenance become the responsibility of the non-federal entity. Non-federal sponsors are responsible for 50 percent of the feasibility study costs, a minimum of 25 percent of the flood control costs, and 5 percent of the cost of constructed flood control works in structural projects.


  • Cooperation agreements during construction emphasize collaboration between federal and non-federal entities.


  • Congressional authorization and USACE oversight during feasibility and construction may give communities the impression that flood risk management is a federal responsibility, undermining efforts to increase state capacity to deal with these issues.
  • Non-structural mitigation and ecosystem restoration projects can be challenging to justify through traditional USACE benefit-cost analyses, as such methods do not incorporate the economic value of ecosystem services.
  • USACE district divisions may have different needs and priorities, complicating the management structure of the program if goals do not align across other federal, state, and local administrative barriers.

Flood Risk Management Program

The USACE Flood Risk Management Program coordinates Corps flood risk management projects internally and integrates counterpart projects of other state and federal agencies. The ultimate goal of the program is to foster collaborative flood risk mitigation planning, response, and recovery efforts across multiple levels of government, identifying and correcting misalignments between existing programs that hinder effective management efforts. The mission of the program is carried out through partnerships with multiple flood risk management stakeholders including state and local government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private sector entities. Examples of Corps flood risk management activities include planning and construction of flood risk management projects, promotion of nonstructural flood risk reduction measures, and participation in flood disaster response efforts. The program also provides technical planning assistance for flood risk management projects to states, counties, and cities.


  • The Corps Flood Risk Management Program has a strong focus on coordination and correction of program misalignments, which helps achieve a more holistic approach to flood risk management.
  • Federal partnerships with state and local entities improve state capacity to address coastal flood risk.
  • The program promotes nonstructural flood risk management measures and makes technical assistance available to help states and communities implement such projects.


  • The reliance on FIRMs for flood risk planning across state and local governments can reduce incentives to incorporate future coastal flood risk across USACE Flood Risk Management Program activities.

Levee Safety Program

The 2007 Water Resources Development Act called for the formation of the USACE Levee Safety Program in response to the catastrophic events of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The program is tasked with reducing flood risk due to levee failure by increasing public information on levee safety, developing national levee safety policies and engineering standards, and maintaining a flood damage reduction system to meet public safety needs. The program works towards these goals through risk assessment and reduction projects, levee inspections, and compilation of levees into a national levee database. Levees included in the program currently represent approximately 10 percent of all levees in the United States. The national levee database displays the location and condition of levees within the Levee Safety Program along with public data available from other federal environmental agencies, with updates as new information becomes available. Levee inspections are carried out at regular intervals to monitor levee condition, identify deficiencies, ensure sufficient maintenance, assess federal rehabilitation eligibility, and collect information for public distribution. The program partners with FEMA to support levee accreditation decisions for the NFIP and collaborates with non-federal sponsors charged with the operation and maintenance of levees once construction is completed.


  • The levee database provides a critical tool to distribute flood risk information to the public, encouraging increased responsibility of local communities in managing coastal flood risk.


  • The levee database and inspection programs remain limited in terms of national scope, and a national levee safety policy or engineering standard has yet to be finalized, limiting improvements to state flood risk management capacity if levees are not included in the national program.

Technical Assistance Programs

The broad goal of USACE technical assistance programs is to deliver services to aid communities in characterizing flood risk management challenges and exploring structural and nonstructural solutions to address those challenges. The Planning Assistance to States (PAS) program is authorized by the 1974 WRDA and provides states, communities, and non-governmental organizations with assistance in constructing comprehensive plans for conservation, utilization, and development of water resources and associated lands. These studies generally do not delve into design or project construction but instead address water resources at the planning level. The program has the flexibility to address a variety of water resource concerns including studies of water supply and demand, water quality, wetlands restoration, dam safety, flood damage reduction, and coastal zone protection. PAS studies are conducted after a local, regional, or state government requests assistance through the program, and study cost is subject to a 50/50 federal/non-federal cost share.

The Floodplain Management Services (FPMS) program, authorized by the 1960 Flood Control Act, is tasked with increasing public understanding of options for addressing flood hazards and promoting wise use and management of floodplains within the United States. The program provides technical services including development of site-specific data on flood flow, formation, timing, and natural floodplain resources. Planning guidance is available in the form of special studies, which can address multiple aspects of floodplain management including floodplain delineation, flood warning, hurricane preparedness, floodproofing, and land use changes. Program support is also available for the production of floodplain management activity guides and pamphlets for public distribution. The FPMS program fully covers all costs associated with services provided through the program.

Silver Jackets teams also fall under the umbrella of USACE technical assistance programs. Teams seek to remove programmatic stovepipes and leverage resources and information across multiple levels of government to reduce flood risk. Teams are formed at the state level, and each team has unique members depending on state need, often including state agencies involved in hazard mitigation or floodplain management as well as USACE, FEMA, and other federal partners. The program itself does not provide additional financial resources for flood risk management activities but instead seeks to aid federal agencies, states, and communities in best utilizing existing programs under available budgets by facilitating strategic risk reduction, resolving gaps and counteractive programs, improving flood risk communication, and establishing ongoing interagency relationships. Teams are currently in place or in development in all 50 states.


  • Technical assistance programs serve a key role in increasing state capacity to manage flood risk, as programs work to help states plan and manage risk as opposed to states relying on federal projects and disaster assistance.
  • The Silver Jackets program can be viewed as a model for a holistic flood risk management approach as it heavily emphasizes removal of program stovepipes and coordination of management activities across multiple agencies and levels of government.


  • Demand for technical assistance is high, and programs may not be able to meet the needs of all applicants due to funding levels.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Community-based Restoration Program (CBRP)

NOAA’s Community-based Restoration Program is authorized by the 2006 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The program supports restoration of coastal habitats through financial and technical assistance for local projects and also promotes community involvement and stewardship of coastal resources. Operated through NOAA’s Restoration Center, the program undertakes cooperative agreements and partnerships with coastal communities to make improvements in coastal land-use and management. These long-term partnerships are used to support community-based habitat restoration efforts over a variety of coastal areas throughout the United States. While restoration projects are primarily designed to benefit threatened fish species, habitat restoration efforts often have ancillary benefits to coastal floodplain management through activities such as dam removal or easement purchases of coastal areas.


  • The program promotes long-term partnerships between federal, state, and local agencies through restoration projects that could be leveraged for floodplain management activities.
  • Coastal habitat restoration inherently promotes nonstructural mitigation solutions and improves natural and beneficial functions of coastal floodplains.


  • Floodplain management could be further integrated in the CBRP as dam removal and coastal habitat restoration may overlap with other federal and state agency activities, providing an opportunity for increased regulatory consistency across agencies.

Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) Programs

The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 established three national programs with a nexus to coastal flood risk management: the National Coastal Zone Management Program, the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. The National Coastal Zone Management Program, coordinated through the NOAA Office of Coastal Management, is a voluntary partnership between coastal states and the federal government in which states establish individual coastal management programs to further the goals of the CZMA. Each state program has basic requirements that must be met, but states are given flexibility to incorporate unique issues, local laws, and regulations. With the combination of federal and individual state management programs the CZM program as a whole seeks to take a comprehensive approach to coastal management issues, balancing competing uses of coastal areas as well as coordinating federal and state actions. Program guidance also makes an explicit connection to the floodplain management requirements of EO 11988.

A key aspect of the program is the federal consistency provision, which requires that federal actions within state coastal zones are consistent with state coastal management enforceable policies. The program also provides grants for coastal resource improvement and coastal zone enhancement. Resource improvement grants require a 1 to 1 match from states, while coastal zone enhancement grant funds require no match. The national program also oversees the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program, operated in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, which seeks to manage runoff from agriculture, forestry, urban areas, marinas, shoreline modification activities, wetlands, and vegetated treatment systems. Each state must develop a nonpoint pollution control program and ensure pollution control program implementation to participate in the national CZM program.

The Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) aided state and local government estuarine or coastal land purchasing efforts by providing matching funds for conservation easements. To qualify for the program land purchases must have been ecologically valuable or provided other conservation value through historic features, recreational opportunities, or aesthetic features. The program was operated as a voluntary partnership between coastal states and NOAA, and states needed to develop conservation plans and priorities to participate. Plans were used for project selection following a competitive merit review. The program was administered provided that funding was made available at the federal level.

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) consists of 29 coastal sites, each designed to preserve and study estuarine systems across the United States and operated as a partnership between NOAA and coastal states. State agencies, universities, and local partners are responsible for the day to day management of each site while NOAA provides national guidance and funding for the program. Reserves work to increase responsible stewardship of natural resources, supplement research on coastal management efforts, train local and state officials, and educate the public. Coastal management issues covered throughout these functions include community resilience, habitat restoration, invasive species, and nonpoint pollution.


  • The National Coastal Zone Management Program statutory framework is aimed at integrating federal, state, and local land use planning to reduce risk to coastal communities, fostering a holistic management approach in coastal areas.
  • CZMA programs enable development of state capacity to manage coastal flood risk by allowing for flexibility at the state level, ensuring federal actions do not undermine state regulations, and emphasizing training and education.
  • The preservation and stewardship of open space in coastal areas through the NERRS supports non-structural coastal flood risk mitigation efforts. CELCP used to serve the same function.


  • While the CZMA programs emphasize the management of coastal development, many states have yet to implement policies that formally restrict development in coastal areas.

Endangered and Threatened Marine Species

NOAA implements the Endangered Species Act through the Protected Resources program within the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). NMFS is responsible for marine or anadromous species listed under the ESA including marine mammals, reptiles, fish, plants, and invertebrates. Once a marine species is listed under the ESA, the Protected Resources program requires designation of critical habitat for the species, development and implementation of a recovery plan, development of cooperative agreements with states for conservation of the species, consultation with NMFS on proposed actions that may affect the species, partnership with other nations and non-federal organizations to limit trade, and authorization of research on the species. ESA violations include any taking of the species or any impacts upon the critical habitat necessary for the species to recover, with enforcement provided by the NMFS Office of Law Enforcement.


  • The program contains procedures to incorporate effects of climate change and sea level rise into recovery plans.
  • The program requires coordination and long-term partnerships among multiple government agencies across federal and state levels to ensure recovery of threatened and endangered species.


  • While critical habitat designations in coastal areas provide a nexus to coastal floodplain management, maps linking critical habitat and floodplain locations are lacking, and legal issues have surfaced regarding implementation of the NFIP and ESA in coastal areas.

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