USACE 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report

On February 7, 2013 35 federal agencies released their third annual Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans (SSPPs), which for the first time included Climate Change Adaptation Plans to help federal agencies reach climate change resilience goals.

President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 on October 5, 2009, which requires each federal agency to issue an SSPP, setting new sustainability standards for operations, and directs agencies to improve their environmental, energy and economic performance. Under this E.O. and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Implementing Instructions, agencies also are required to submit a Climate Adaptation Plan for implementation in 2013. (More information on E.O. 13514 and the Implementing Instructions can be found in this clearinghouse.)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report is included as an Appendix to the USACE FY12 Sustainability Plan. The report is an update to the 2011 Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Report (also reviewed in this clearinghouse). The report presents the Corps' vision, goals, and strategic approaches, programmatic activities supporting climate change adaptation, and cross-cutting activities underway. Additional information on current USACE adaptation planning and implementation progress, as well as related policy and current application is included.

Effective climate change adaptation is especially important for USACE because the hydrologic processes underlying water resources management are very sensitive to changes in climate and weather. The Civil Works Program and associated water resources infrastructure represent "a tremendous Federal investment that supports public safety and local and national economic growth, and hence, the Corps has a compelling need to understand and adapt to climate change and variability."

The report delineates USACE policy development and related actions taken to support adaptation. Regarding the Corps guidance on adapting to sea-level rise, the sea-level change enabling policy provides scenarios against which USACE projects and programs can be assessed, but does not provide specific implementation guidance - which Corps is developing. This includes establishing thresholds and tipping points to guide adaptive, flexible adaptation and detailed implementation guidance on how to include sea-level change impacts and adaptation into USACE planning, engineering, construction, operation, and maintenance. The guidance integrates the recommended planning and engineering approach at the regional and project level.

Six adaptation priority areas for action were identified in the 2011 Adaptation Plan and Report, and the USACE has committed to making progress in these priority areas in 2013 and beyond:

1. National Action Plan to Manage Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate

2. Risk- Informed Decision-Making for Climate Change 

3. Nonstationarity

4. Portfolio of Approaches 

5. More Refined Vulnerability Assessments 

6. Metrics and Endpoints  

USACE is developing a risk management framework to incorporate climate change into decision-making. Several climate change adaptation pilot projects are testing the framework:

  • The Hamilton Wetland Restoration Project (HWRP) is testing the proposed risk framework and evaluating its application to the USACE planning phase.
  • The West Maui Watershed Study is using the framework to collaboratively identify climate risks and to develop adaptation strategies.
  • The Lower Columbia River Estuary pilot study is applying the framework to ecosystem restoration.
  • An interagency team is employing the risk management strategy to plan for sea-level change as part of the development of USACE guidance addressing adaptation to sea level change.

This plan will be updated annually and will be publicly available to USACE staff, partners and stakeholders.

If you have difficulty accessing this resource, an archived version of this plan can be found here (saved on February 16, 2017): 


Publication Date: June 2012

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  • Adaptation plan


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