EM 1110-2-1100 (Part I)
30 Apr 02
For most of the nation's history, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has played an active role in the
coastal zone. To the mid-1800s, this role was largely confined to coastal defense and some harbor protection.
But, in the mid-1800s, the USACE's mission expanded to include developing civil works projects in support
of a growing nation. These responsibltiies included harbor construction, dredging and clearing waterways,
building canals and channels, and protecting coastal areas threatened by erosion (e.g., Presque Isle). During
the second half of the 20th century, the USACE's role further expanded to include environmental restoration
and preservation of threatened coastal areas. Since the 1930s, coastal-related research and development have
been conducted to advance the technical foundations and basis for conducting coastal civil works.
The 20th century was witness to a large-scale evolution in the development of, use of, and interest in the
coastal zone. National defense, agriculture, navigation, economic development, recreation, and environmental
worth all contribute to the definition of coastal policy and action. During the early years of the 21st century
there will be continuing development pressure in the coastal zone . Coastal engineers and scientists will
undoubtedly be asked to play an increasing role in planning, designing, and maintaining infrastructure
projects, in coastal management and environmental mitigation, and will continue their more traditional
missions of navigation and flood protection.
In fiscal year 1998, the USACE and contractor-owned dredges removed 182 million cubic meters of
material from Federally-constructed and maintained channels at a cost of 3 million. Dredged material is
a valuable resource with numerous potential benefits, including construction of protective dunes and beaches,
maintenance of beaches through bypassing to reestablish natural sediment-transport paths, and restoration
and creation of wetlands and coastal habitat. Demand for dredged material usage is increasing, but
environmental concerns and constraints present new engineering challenges that must be addressed.
Erosion and flooding threaten an estimated trillion of development along the coast, with 80 to 90
percent of the nation's sandy beaches eroding (Hillyer 1996). Shore protection and restoration throughout
the developed areas of the coast will increase, especially if the growing value of coastal property and
recreation benefits are factored into the cost benefit calculations.
Because of the age of many harbor structures, improving and rebuilding jetties and breakwaters will be
a major mission area. Wetlands restoration should also be growth areas, and already the USACE is involved
in major restoration projects in the Everglades, in south Louisiana, and along many stretches of the
Emergency coastal response work is also likely to be a growth area for the USACE. Many of the recent
arrivals to the coastal zone have not personally experienced a major disaster like the Galveston hurricane of
1900, the 1962 Ash Wednesday storm, or the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. Much of the
population is ignorant of the hazards that exist and is not prepared to respond to the aftermath of a
catastrophic storm. The USACE has actively participated in disaster emergency and recovery efforts in
Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, and many of these skills are applicable to mainland disasters.
History of Coastal Engineering