LA District Planners Highlight USACE Environmental Justice and Engineering with Nature Initiatives

The symposium brought together governments, non-profit organizations, community-based organizations, scientists, academics, agency representatives, land managers and other interested parties to discuss emerging concerns about the Los Angeles River in the era of climate change.

Megan Whalen, a watershed program manager with the LA District and urban waters ambassador, was one of four panelists who participated in a breakout session titled, “Weathering Change,” in which audience participants discussed climate impacts on communities and strategies for resilience.

“I think the real emphasis today was on environmental justice and working with communities that will be even more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” she said. “Severe weather has the ability to impact all communities; however, vulnerable communities are going to be even more at risk.”

Megan Whalen (center), watershed program manager, with the LA District speaks with audience
members during panel discussions at the 2023 State of the Los Angeles River Watershed Symposium Sept. 19 at the Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Brooks Hubbard IV)
Megan Whalen (center), watershed program manager, with the LA District speaks with audience members during panel discussions at the 2023 State of the Los Angeles River Watershed Symposium Sept. 19. (Photo by Brooks Hubbard IV)

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin or income regarding the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies with no group bearing a disproportionate burden of environmental harms and risks.

For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, environmental justice and disproportionate impacts to Justice40 communities are considered throughout the agency’s Civil Works programs and in all phases of project planning and decision-making.

Environmental justice is when everyone receives the same degree of protection and equal access to Civil Works programs and services to achieve a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.

“So, in being here today, we not only are able to represent what we do,” Whalen said, “but also (represent) the partnership that we have with the Council of Watershed Health.”

A poster session followed the evening reception at the symposium, where attendees were able to walk around and discuss various collaborating agencies’ posters.

Megan Whalen, watershed program manager, with the LA District was one of four panelists that participated in a breakout session titled Weathering Change, where she discussed how climate impacts on communities and strategies for resilience at the 2023 State of the Los Angeles River Watershed Symposium Sept. 19 at the Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, California. Megan Whalen (center), watershed program manager, with the LA District speaks with audience
members during panel discussions at the 2023 State of the Los Angeles River Watershed Symposium Sept. 19 at the Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Brooks Hubbard IV)
Megan Whalen, watershed program manager, with the LA District was one of four panelists that participated in a breakout session titled Weathering Change, where she discussed how climate impacts on communities and strategies for resilience at the 2023 State of the Los Angeles River Watershed Symposium Sept. 19 at the Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Brooks Hubbard IV)

Manya Singh, a study manager for environmental justice initiatives with the LA District, presented her environmental justice and engineering with nature posters and discussed the Corps’ goals in achieving Justice40, as well as the Corps work with engineering with nature.

“We’re here today to talk about these two initiatives and to indicate to our friends and partners these are two initiatives that we are looking for new connections and new opportunities to work on,” Singh said.

Singh’s environmental justice poster shows a recently developed map of the district’s area of operations, with various overlays that highlighted the environmental justice outreach conducted in local communities in 2023.

Singh’s engineering with nature poster was highlighted in the symposium’s pamphlet.

“I did spend a lot of time on this poster,” Singh said. “Engineering with nature is an initiative out of (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Research and Development Center), and, previously, the San Francisco District was considered the proving ground … recently the whole (South Pacific Division) has become a proving ground. That includes the Los Angeles District, so we are trying to let our communities know we are really pushing the engineering with nature approach. This poster highlights the four elements of the approach.”

For more information about the Corps’ environmental justice and engineering with nature initiatives, visit:
https://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental-Justice/
https://www.spl.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Projects-Studies/
https://ewn.erdc.dren.mil/about/