Sixteen years to the day after Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana, Hurricane Ida made landfall just 40 miles down the coast. In addition to their date and location, these storms shared similar characteristics, which has lead to multiple comparisons. Thankfully, lessons learned from Katrina and efforts to mitigate future devastation have been successful.
Following the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) embarked on one of the largest and most comprehensive public works projects in American history. The USACE established the Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) to provide the greater New Orleans Area a 100-year level of risk reduction, meaning that infrastructure would be established to defend against a storm surge that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year.
One of the most critical measures of HSDRRS is protecting levees against the erosion-causing hydraulic forces of wave overtopping. Without protection, overtopping can lead to significant erosion on the landside of the levee and lead to a potential breach of the levee itself. The primary reason that Katrina was so catastrophic was that the 28 to 30 foot storm surge overtopped the levee system, causing massive erosion and scour that lead to multiple levee breaches. The failure of the levee system created extensive flooding that impacted about 80% of New Orleans.
To improve erosion control on the top and side slopes of the levees, the USACE used High-Performance Turf Reinforcement Mat (HPTRM) to armor the levees against overtopping. The HPTRM protection included four feet on the flood side, across the top and completely down the protected size, ten feet past the grade brake.
The USACE requested HPTRMs that meet the standards outlined by the EPA and Storm Water Technology Fact sheet. PROPEX Armormax was selected as one of the systems to be used. Armormax combines HPTRM with Engineered Earth Anchors to lock soil in place and protect against hydraulic stresses.
To ensure its effectiveness, the USACE required rigorous testing before the project began. USACE partnered with Colorado State University (CSU) to build a full-scale wave overtopping simulator (largest in the world). The simulator tested erosion resistance of Armormax for 500-year resiliency overtopping conditions.
Testing showed that Armormax provided increased levee resilience and durability. Additionally, testing showed that using the Armormax system reinforces vegetation on the earthen levees, which reduces the risk of breaching caused by wave overtopping.
On August 29, 2021, the upgraded levee system was put to the real test when Hurricane Ida rolled ashore. The next day the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East shared that “there were no levee breaches or overtopping within the HSDRRS.”
While Hurricane Ida has been Louisiana’s biggest test since Katrina, Armormax has stood its ground against two other destructive hurricanes. Penn Levee, which is armored with Armormax, withstood overtopping from both Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Isaac.
Solmax has had an ongoing relationship with the USACE for 14 years, and Armormax has been used to stabilize more than 100 miles of levees throughout the New Orleans area. The success of stabilizing the levees in New Orleans had led the USACE to use Armormax on river levees and canals both for erosion control and slope stability throughout the United States.
Ninety-nine percent of counties in the United States have experienced at least one significant flooding event in the last 25 years, and there have been 33 flood events costing a billion dollars in the U.S. since 1980 according to the American Flood Coalition. Similarly, the EPA estimates that the average 100-year floodplain will increase 45 percent by the year 2100.
Due to this anticipated surge, engineers and agencies are taking a more proactive approach to mitigate flood hazards rather than addressing damage after it has occurred. For example, FEMA launched the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program that shifts funds from reactive disaster spending toward investment in community resilience. With this proactive approach, sustainability and resiliency are becoming more important in flood mitigation project design.
According to the FEMA fact sheet, Natural Hazard Mitigation Save Interim Report, for every $1 spent on federal mitigation grants, an average of $6 is saved. Additionally, the losses avoided by federally funded riverine flood mitigation projects exceed the money spent, with an estimated 7x return on investment.
The cost of Hurricane Ida is estimated at around $75 billion and ranks as the number 5 most expensive hurricane is U.S. history1. Without the mitigation efforts of the USACE, it’s safe to say these costs would have been much higher. Hurricane Katrina tops the list, costing $128 billion.
Natural and nature-based features (NNBFs) are becoming more prevalent in coastal resiliency and protection design as climate change threatens social, economic and environmental systems along the U.S. coast. However, planners need enhanced processes to predict and quantify their benefits prior to implementation.
To better incorporate these designs into numerical models, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has developed an Engineering With Nature® toolkit for the Coastal Storm (CSTORM) Modeling System, enabling planners to test the hydrodynamic, ecologic and adaptive effects of NNBFs on coastal or estuarine environments.
“The EWN toolkit for CSTORM modeling is a graphic user interface, or GUI, that allows a numerical modeler to represent NNBFs digitally in existing numerical models and standardizes and streamlines the augmentation of those features into the modeling framework,” said Dr. Amanda Tritinger, a research hydraulics engineer with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center and assistant program manager for the USACE EWN initiative.
The initiative uses the intentional alignment of natural and engineering processes to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental and social benefits through collaboration. As projects are planned, USACE districts require a method for predicting the impact that EWN features — such as NNBFs — may have on the coastal resiliency of communities, quantifying changes to predicted values of storm surge, inundation and wave attenuation for various storm events if these features were implemented.
Traditionally, the process for bringing these features into numerical models has been cumbersome and expensive. The modeling requires manual integration into the bathymetry/mesh, entailing a high level of skill and a significant time commitment. Each time the feature is altered, the mesh must be rebuilt, causing significant time delays.
“This new tool lets you get a preview of what your meshed-in feature will look like,” said Tritinger. “It also lets you drag and drop multiple designs in one at a time and choose alternative ideas to see what could work and what doesn’t. I think it gives engineers the thumbs up to try something different. It’s more than just a tool -- it’s the chance to push the line of innovation on engineering design.”
The tool doesn’t only open the door to innovation, but also to efficiency.
Standardization is an important key to the framework’s success. The CSTORM design team put a lot of effort into the literature review, working to consistently set the parameters of the numerical model.
“Before, you had to do this extensive literature review to figure out how to represent your features and the parameterization settings of your numerical modeling,” said Tritinger. “We’ve brought all the literature together and put it in one place in this GUI. It allows the user to see the metadata, where the numbers come from, and use their own expertise to adjust as needed.”
Interested districts can download the GUI by visiting the Aquaveo website or learn more information about the toolkit at the EWN website.
“There is also material on the EWN website supporting the toolkit,” Tritinger said. “I think that’s really important for actual application. It’s one thing to have the tool, it’s another to know how to use it. Hopefully this tool, and the documentation behind it, can empower the districts to quantify and understand effects of more resilient designs.”
As part of the EWN initiative, researchers hope to see more widespread usage of the EWN toolkit across the enterprise as the tool can be used to streamline mesh development in general for numerical modeling.
“I would highly recommend – even if you don’t have interest in NNBFs – to take a look, download it, and apply it to mesh development even outside the Advanced Circulation Model,” said Tritinger. “Because of the new workflow, you can develop a mesh and apply it to your own models. It does more than augment an NNBF into a numerical modeling framework. It can expand innovation on every project.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announces the recent completion of dredging in five south shore inlets. The projects have all been dual-purposed, restoring safe depths for navigation, and beneficially using all dredged sands for coastal storm risk resiliency and environmental restoration. The five inlets, all dredged since last fall are East Rockaway Inlet, Jones Inlet, Fire Island Inlet, Moriches Inlet and Shinnecock Inlet. Taken together, the dredging activities removed over a million cubic yards of sand, all of which was placed on adjacent beaches or into the literal drift system.
Dredging activities during the fall and winter season did see some major challenges given many extreme weather days and difficult working conditions. Yet, a strong partnership effort among multiple federal, state and local agencies continuously developed innovative strategies to deliver the projects while ensuring safety, endangered species protection and compliance with regulatory standards.
Most challenging were the latest activities to complete Contract 2 of the Fire Island to Montauk Point Project (FIMP) which required dredging in Moriches Inlet and Shinnecock Inlet. The Corps, in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) and federal and state resource agencies, worked tirelessly to deliver the project. With completion of work under the $24,498,050 contract, which was awarded to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company LLC of Houston, TX, there is now bolstered resilience of Long Island's coastline.
The FIMP contract involved the hydraulic dredging of more than 320,000 cubic yards of sand from Shinnecock and Moriches Inlets, strategically placing it on updrift and downdrift beaches to reduce erosion and strengthen coastal resiliency. The FIMP Project reduces flood risk for Long Islanders along vulnerable areas of 83 miles of coastline in Suffolk County, from Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point.
"The completion of this contract signifies a major milestone in the FIMP Project,” said COL Matthew Luzzatto, commander, USACE, New York District. “Our dedicated team, alongside federal, state, and local partners, has worked tirelessly to address this challenging project. Their efforts will ensure the safety and well-being of the residents of the surrounding communities as we continue to strengthen our coastlines and make them more resilient against future coastal storms. I would like to thank everyone for their dedication, commitment, and unwavering support in completing this project.”
"We appreciate the opportunity to coordinate with USACE to meet their responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act during this phase of the project," said Ian Drew, field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's New York Field Office. "We look forward to continued cooperation to fulfill conservation measures and goals for mitigation, monitoring, and management as this important work continues."
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “We’re proud to be the state partner in this effort with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect Long Island’s coastal communities by reducing flood risks. Climate change is driving an uptick in both severe storms and flooding. To safeguard our communities and our natural resources, we must continue to work together on the federal, state, and local levels on projects like this to increase storm resiliency.”
The work at Fire Island, Moriches and Shinnecock are part of a comprehensive, multi-year $1.7 billion project, fully federally funded under Public Law 113-2, the Emergency Supplemental Bill passed in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The project incorporates a range of features to reduce coastal flood risks, including structure elevations, building retrofits, a breach response plan, beach and dune fill, and adaptive management strategies.
The USACE New York District will continue to lead construction efforts in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), Suffolk County, the Towns of Babylon, Islip, Brookhaven, Southampton, and Easthampton, the National Park Service (NPS), Fire Island National Seashore (FIIS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Collaboration with these stakeholders ensures that environmental sensitivity and endangered species protection remain paramount as the FIMP Project advances.
For more information, please visit the USACE New York District website at: https://www.nan.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Projects-in-New-York/Fire-Island-to-Montauk-Point/
About the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, is responsible for the federal water resources development in New Jersey, New York, and parts of Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The District is committed to delivering vital engineering solutions, in collaboration with partners, to secure the Nation, energize the economy, and reduce risk from disaster.
Two important Army installations are using a tool provided by the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville to support the Army’s Installation Energy and Water Resilience Policy.
The tool is the Energy Savings and Performance Contracts (ESPC) program administered by Huntsville Center. ESPCs utilize private capital to make infrastructure improvements and new efficiencies without tapping into the capital budget to support and enable the warfighter and meet energy and environmental mandates.
Considered the Army’s expert in ESPCs, Huntsville Center implemented the contracts to assist the installations in supporting the Army Climate Strategy by providing energy resilience and energy cybersecurity and reducing energy and water use (as well as carbon and greenhouse gas emissions) to improve readiness and save taxpayers money.
At Army Garrison Carlisle Barracks, Penn., the ESPC project there is in its fifth year of the performance period and has exceeded the guaranteed savings by $62,973. The home to the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks is the nation's second-oldest active military base.
The project at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, is in year six of the performance period and has exceeded the guaranteed savings amount by $325,100. Fort McCoy is a 60,000-acre Army Reserve installation and home to the 88th Regional Support Command, a Total Force training center responsible for enhancing readiness for more than 100,000 military personnel annually.
Hannah Niedergeses, Energy Division Project Manager, said energy conservation measures for these projects include lighting upgrades, energy monitoring and control system upgrades, which will optimize the operation of HVAC systems throughout the buildings.
“There are other organizations that award ESPCs, but the thing that makes Huntsville Center stand out from the others is that we have a centralized project management ‘one-stop-shop,’” Niedergeses said.
“The long-term partnership between the Huntsville Center’s Energy Division, the garrisons, energy savings contractors and other Army stakeholders requires a high degree of commitment and work in good faith to enable successful outcomes.”
Niedergeses said the advantages of implementing ESPC projects through Huntsville Center include the program’s experience with ESPC project execution. She said the programs centralized project management enables a standardized and streamlined process by a dedicated and experienced project development team.
“We provide comprehensive program support including engineering technical expertise, project management expertise, cost analysis, legal review, and measurement and verification services through a third-party,” Niedergeses said.
“We also ensure compliance with all Department of Defense policies and regulations of third-party financing.”
Huntsville Center ESPC program support provides a tremendous value, said Richard McCoy, Carlisle Barracks energy manager.
“Since the inception of our (ESPC) contract six years ago, the contractor has been monitoring our energy usage and HVAC operations in five buildings. This has resulted in reduced energy costs each year and assists the garrison in keeping our HVAC equipment running efficiently.”
The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville has signed off on a $67 million Energy Resilience & Conservation Investment Program (ERCIP) contract to provide Rock Island Arsenal (RIA) with secure, self-sufficient energy.
A subsection of the Defense-Wide Military Construction (MILCON) program, ERCIP specifically funds projects that save energy and water, reduce Department of Defense energy costs, improve energy resilience and security, and contribute to mission assurance.
Huntsville Center Energy Division’s ERCIP is the Army’s requirement development experts providing planning and technical support to the Army by validating all ERCIP projects before they are submitted to the Department of Defense to compete for funding.
“To fulfill the Army’s energy resilience requirements, Rock Island Arsenal must submit a project proposal to the Office of the Secretary of Defense to compete for funding,” said Richard Moore, ERCIP project manager.
“It’s the job of Huntsville Center’s ERCIP validation team to lend technical support and planning guidance by validating the project.”
Rock Island Arsenal Rock Island Arsenal is a major Army installation employing more than 6,000 military, civilian and contractor personnel and is home to more than 80 tenant organizations providing critical products and services to all of U.S. armed services.
This project supports Rock Island’s resilience to the effects of climate change by securing self-sufficient generation using a diverse set of assets including solar, hydro-electric and battery storage, alleviating reliance on its onsite fuel storage or the serving utility during manmade and natural emergencies.
The contract calls for a planned construct of a microgrid powered by approximately 14 MW natural gas (NG) generators, up to 3 MW solar photovoltaic array, and a 400 kW / 1.6 MWh battery energy storage system integrated with the existing 2.8 MW hydro-electric power plant totaling approximately 20 MW.
“The microgrid system will supply sufficient electricity for continued operation of all critical loads across Rock Island Arsenal during a grid outage for weeks and it will double the renewable energy capacity to almost 50% of critical load,” Moore said.
Absent of the microgrid solution, an extended outage at Rock Island Arsenal could disrupting manufacturing processes and operations vital to U.S. military efforts.
“We validated the project definition, technical feasibility, appropriate technology, estimated energy savings, and associated Life Cycle Cost Analysis by calculating the Savings to Investment Ratio (SIR) and payback years through a comprehensive process,” Moore said.
Huntsville Center’s Energy Division provides cost savings to customers through an array of services including: critical energy analysis; planning and consultation; project management; acquisition support/tools; alternative financing and other services.
Doug Van Werden, RIA Energy Manager, said the ERCIP project will allow RIA to operate during an electrical outage for as long as needed with no impact to the installation mission.
“Currently the post can only provide about 10-15% of the emergency power required,” he said. “In the end, this project will allow RIA to continue supporting the war fighter world-wide during power outages while decreasing the post’s daily greenhouse gas production. A win-win for the post the and the U.S. military world-wide.”