U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District

Hometown: Portland, OR, US

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District
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Oregon jetties built to be resilient

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Building climate change resilience in the Pacific Northwest

Story by Michelle Helms

Oregon jetties built to be resilient PORTLAND, Ore. - From navigation to ecosystem restoration, the Pacific Northwest is one of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ most demanding coastal design environments. The winter storms that regularly pound the Oregon and southern Washington coast are much like the hurricanes experienced on the East Coast. While challenging, these conditions give the Portland District an advantage when planning for climate change.

“The Pacific Northwest projects already have to deal with a fairly large range and climate variability,” said Heidi Moritz, Portland District coastal engineer. We have to design our structures to be resilient to that, even without climate change.”

Wave heights average four meters during winter storms; 10 to 12 meters high is unusual. Add in the fact that these strong storms often come in one after another, after another—the Corps’ coastal structures were built to last.

The jetties on Oregon’s coast are rubble mound structures that stretch from the shore out into the Pacific Ocean. The oldest structure was built in the late 1800s, the youngest in 1979. They are what stand between ships and unpredictable ocean elements.

These structures are not the only ones vulnerable to the unpredictable coastal conditions. Levees, bridges and roads that protect and connect coastal communities are also at risk.

“If we’re able to look at our projects in a scenario-based approach and think ahead for a range of conditions,” said Moritz. “Then those people will be better served and better protected.”

The Corps is working with other federal, state and local agencies to consider how climate change will affect coastal communities, as well as those further inland.

“You can’t work in isolation,” said Keith Duffy, Portland District hydraulic engineer. “They bring in a lot of different aspects of what to look for and what’s important. How we operate in response to climate change will impact everyone, so it’s very integrated.”

Addressing climate change is a balancing act—meet today’s needs, but be ready to adapt to tomorrow’s environment.

“The trick is to be as aware of what those changes may be and to reduce the uncertainty,” said Duffy.

Anticipating, preparing, responding and adapting to change…it all adds up to resilience. An element already built into the Corps’ service to the Pacific Northwest.

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
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