U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Atlantic Division Commander, Brig. Gen. Jason E. Kelly, signed the South Atlantic Coastal Study Final Report this week during a virtual, online ceremony July 25, 2022.
The four-year, $18.4 million, comprehensive regional study was designed to identify the risks and vulnerabilities of tidally influenced areas to increased hurricane and storm damage as a result of sea level rise. The study area included the entire Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean coasts from Mississippi to North Carolina as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The 65,000 miles of tidally influenced shoreline, including back bays, within these states and territories remains highly vulnerable to coastal storms and the associated effects of sea level rise.
“This is a really, really, really big deal,” said Kelly. “You guys absolutely killed this thing and everyone that I’ve been able to talk to is encouraged about this work.”
The SACS was designed to provide a common operating picture of coastal risk that decision makers at multiple state, territorial and local administrative agencies, as well as Tribes, non-governmental agencies, academics and the public, could draw on to formulate comprehensive, consistent regional assessments of risk.
The study identifies high-risk locations and assesses risk reduction actions. The resulting tools and data resources provide information to all stakeholders working to optimize existing efforts that reduce risk and inform future coastal studies and projects. The data and tools are available to the public at large.
“The SACS team generated a number of tools and products, many though collaboration with others and many by leveraging existing data resources,” said Ashleigh Fountain, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, Regional Project Manager for the study.
“We know that these tools are already paying dividends, as they were intended. They are being used internally by our organization and externally,” she said.
All data and tools – the main report, eight state and territorial appendices and three technical appendices – may be accessed on the web at the link provided. https://www.sad.usace.army.mil/SACS/.
Final versions of all documents will be posted by the end of August,
“What the SACS team and our many contributing stakeholders have accomplished is amazing,” said Matt Schrader, a regional planning lead for the study.
“The SACS is a springboard for the next generation of coastal storm risk management efforts and a treasury of information for anyone involved in coastal resilience and storm risk management,” he said.
The collaborative structure of the study, which allowed stakeholders across the region to contribute their granular knowledge of data and trends in their locations, was key to its success, said Lisa Clark, from the Jacksonville District and regional outreach lead for SACS.
“Our outreach spanned six states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and connected more than 1,400 stakeholders to the collaboration. The team conducted virtual and in-person meetings to engage stakeholders from the very beginning and ensure that all parties stayed up to date on SACS progress,” she said.
“Outreach. I have to tell you: This is one where I think we’ve done it better than it’s ever been done, the way we stayed engaged with communities, the way we’ve had multiple sessions,” Kelly said.
“It wasn’t a district study, it was going to be a regional study that leveraged the depth and breadth of the region and the enterprise to execute the study,” said Alvin Lee, USACE Director of Civil Works. “The engagement of SACS and the use of the tools, the tool suites that were developed in allowing the public to engage in that, validates the concept, the vision and the outcome for the study.”
“This sets the conditions for the future in the South Atlantic region,” said Eric Bush, USACE Planning and Policy Division chief. “And so, based on the brilliant work you all did, we’re going to be able to implement coastal resiliency improvements here that will set the conditions for a prosperous and better future for the people in the southeast, especially if you’ve been hammered by so many coastal storms.”
“This is a huge accomplishment,” said Jason Engle, a supervisory hydraulics engineer with USACE Jacksonville District. “This team brought to reality something that was talked about for years. It is already positively impacting our coastal storm risk management mission every day.”
“This is a big, big deal what you all have done here, and this is but the first steps and there’s more work to be done. The “A Team” was put on this; you guys are the very best of us. And there’s very little that I think the Army Corps of Engineers cannot handle when the best of us are engaged,” said Kelly.
“Being a part of an effort like this, where we are making tools available for so many to use before we are even done, makes me so incredibly proud,” said Fountain.
“We’re on budget, we’re on time; in fact, we’re under, and I know that doesn’t happen without great collaboration,” said Kelly, as he prepared to sign the report under the virtual gaze of several dozen USACE planners, project managers and technical staff.
“I am privileged to have my name on this document, and I consider myself an ambassador for your great work,” he said
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District on the district’s website at www.saj.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleDistrict and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JaxStrong.