2022 – Climate Change Analysis for USACE Dam Modification Studies

Brian Francis, PE – United States Army Corps of Engineers – Risk Management Center

This paper provides a detailed summary of how the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) qualitatively estimates the effects of climate change for our Dam Safety Modification Studies (DSMS). To improve climate preparedness and resilience, USACE includes climate science informed decision-making in studies and designs. These new analyses typically do not drastically change the results of a study or design but help inform the decision process related to future conditions. USACE uses risk assessments to identify Dams that require modification to address the risks associated with a dam safety issue(s) and to meet USACE tolerable risk guidelines. As part of the dam safety modification study climate change is analysed qualitatively to assess potential climate change threats and impacts that may be relevant to the hydrologic analyses being performed. This is performed using public climate change tools and climate change resource documents developed by USACE, including the Climate Hydrology Assessment Tool (CHAT) and the Nonstationary Detection (NSD) Tool. The climate change analysis informs the decision process related to future conditions, formulation, and evaluation of alternative plans. This affects whether the project could be modified in the future or if another strategy to address the study objectives should be considered to accommodate projected future increases in discharge. In addition to the processes, resources and tools developed by USACE, a recent climate change assessment for a DSMS will be presented to show how the process is applied to our studies. By providing this information dam owners, regulators, and other dam professionals may revisit how climate change is analysed in their organization.

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