Five things Army engineers do to protect the environment
April 23, 2014
By Louis Fioto
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages one of the largest environmental missions in the nation. At the North Atlantic Division in Brooklyn, N.Y., engineers focus on five main environmental areas: Restoring degraded ecosystems, constructing sustainable facilities, managing natural resources and waterways and cleaning up contaminated sites from formerly used defense sites.
The Corps works to restore degraded ecosystem structure, function and dynamic processes to a more natural condition. An example within NAD is the restoration program for the Jamaica Bay Marsh Islands, situated within the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. For over a century the Jamaica Bay marsh islands have been disappearing at a rapid rate. Since 1924 nearly 80 percent of the islands have disappeared.
Since 2006, NAD's New York District has partnered with city and state offices to restore more than 150 acres of marshland, including planting native plants and submerged aquatic vegetation.
Constructing sustainable facilities
The Corps designs and builds sustainable communities and facilities for the Department of Defense. Recognizing the importance of limiting environmental impacts, NAD has recently assisted with the design and construction of many new projects with reduced environmental impacts such as using less energy and water on a daily basis.
One example is the non-medical chemical biological defense facility at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. It uses technologies to cut energy usage by 42 percent and is designed as a "net-zero water" facility, keeping all storm water on site in rain gardens.
Regulating waterways and managing natural resources
The Corps is dedicated to protecting the nation's aquatic resources while allowing reasonable and necessary development. Each year NAD issues thousands of permits for private, community, state and federal projects that involve wetlands and waterways.
Each permit review ensures activities conform to environmental regulations. Every permit allows for significant contributions to local economies and also ensures the protection of wetlands, which filter pollutants from runoff, help store and slow floodwaters during storm events, and provide habitat for many different types of plants and animals.
Cleanup and protection activities
The Corps' environmental cleanup programs focus on reducing risk and protecting human health and the environment in a timely and cost-effective manner. In the northeast, NAD manages the design and execution of a full range of cleanup and protection activities, including administering the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund program and cleaning up hazardous and toxic materials at formerly used military sites, like Spring Valley in the District of Columbia, the former Nansemond Ordnance Depot in Portsmouth, Virginia, and the Raritan Arsenal in New Jersey.
NAD is committed to meeting the current and future needs of the nation through sound stewardship and use of environmental resources.
The Corps' environmental stewardship program promotes, restores, protects and manages our nation's ecological natural resources while providing access to our lands for public use. At NAD, the environmental stewardship program covers almost 150,000 acres and more than 500 miles of shoreline. Environmental stewardship leads to improved recreational opportunities, healthier communities, and strong partnerships.
The Corps' North Atlantic Division has long been an advocate for restoring and protecting the environment, and continues to be on the front line of such efforts. But protecting the environment is more than one agency's responsibility. NAD will continue to work in partnership with others to ensure that its efforts meet the needs of the American public and chart a path to environmental sustainability.