WASHINGTON — Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael L. Connor today directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to effectively use its authorities and capabilities to address the drought crisis intensified by climate change. As extreme drought continues to significantly impact the country, particularly the American West, leadership will coordinate with federal agencies, states and communities to prioritize the Corps’ deployment of near- and long-term actions to support communities that are impacted by water shortages.
“As the nation’s engineer, I believe the Corps is uniquely positioned to play an important role in helping states and local communities become more resilient and adapt to the significant changes in hydrology brought on by climate change,” Connor said. “I intend to work with the Corps to identify additional actions we can take now, and in the future, to promote drought resilience through our infrastructure, restoration capabilities and related actions.”
The Corps’ Civil Works Program has responsibilities throughout the nation’s watersheds from peak to shore. It supports drought resilience through a range of actions, including its operations of existing water infrastructure; management of water resources for navigation, hydropower, and recreation along with municipal and agricultural uses; and development of climate data and tools. The broad scope of the Corps’ mission and assets—including major water infrastructure, wide-ranging water management responsibilities, and deep data and expertise—enables the agency to work with federal and non-federal partners across the nation to help build resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges posed by extreme drought and heat. For example, while meeting the primary purpose of flood-risk reduction at many of its reservoirs, the Corps also operates its existing facilities to support local water needs. The Corps has partnered with academia and federal, state and local agencies, to apply advanced weather and streamflow forecasts to modify reservoir operations in a manner that does not increase flood risk while also improving water availability and ecosystem benefits. To illustrate, the Corps launched a pilot project that adopted this approach at California’s Lake Mendocino which yielded a 19% increase in water supply in 2020, providing critical relief to local communities that were in the midst of their third driest year on record.
As a member of the Biden administration’s Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group, the Corps will be working closely with other federal agencies to ensure efficiency in an enhanced approach to federal efforts that support drought resilience. Speaking at today’s Western Governors Association meeting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Interior, Connor will express the importance of these partnerships as well as the need to engage with western states, tribal leaders, and local communities on their needs in order to better support the comprehensive efforts required to adjust to increasing weather extremes and become more resilient to drought.
The memorandum is available here.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works establishes policy direction and provides supervision of the Department of the Army functions relating to all aspects of the Civil Works Program of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. For more information, please contact Ms. Lauren Leuck at email@example.com or 703-839-0383.