Not long after Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc across Northwest Florida in October 2018, devastating much of Tyndall Air Force Base along the way, military and engineering officials began looking at ways to make the rebuilding of the vital base an example of how investments in natural infrastructure could support and strengthen a facility’s resiliency.
The Tyndall Coastal Resilience Study Project set out to evaluate alternative strategies to accelerate program development and reduce reliance on military construction. It brought together the ingenuity and resources of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Engineering With Nature® (EWN) initiative, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Jacobs Engineering Group. More project information.
As its goal, the study researched using nature-based solutions to reduce coastal flood risk – solutions involving building or enhancing natural habitats, such as beaches, marshes, or dunes to reduce wave and water levels. The project also set out to evaluate alternative financing to accelerate program development and reduce reliance on military construction expenditures.
“The Tyndall coastline and barrier islands are the first line of defense for the base. Losing that buffer to storm surge, sea-level rise, or flooding could impact Tyndall’s ability to execute its numerous missions that contribute to national security,” Col. Travis Leighton (USAF), director of the Tyndall Program Management Office. “That is why this initiative is so important because it explores solutions in direct coordination with the stakeholders who have a vested interest in the outcome as we work together to build Tyndall as a resilient base of the future.”
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrice Melancon, who served as the executive director of the Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida Reconstruction Program Management Office, and who participated in an EWN podcast, said, “We’re hoping it will be a model for all other coastal areas in the U.S.”
In recognition of the work, this project won the International Excellence Award for 2021 by the Environmental Agency (EA) in England on June 30.
The EA is responsible for protecting and enhancing the environment in England and Wales, which includes having primary responsibility for flood and coastal risk management across the entire country. The agency has a staff of more than 11,000, a budget of about $2 billion, and includes a range of responsibilities similar to those discharged by FEMA, USACE, EPA, and others.
Each year, the EA convenes an annual International Flood and Coast Conference, part of which includes the Flood and Coast Excellence Awards program. In the spring of 2021, the Tyndall Coastal Resilience Project was submitted for consideration in the category of “International Excellence.”
“The judges were inspired by this collaborative international effort and its identification of innovative nature-based solutions for rebuilding in complex and sensitive coastal locations,” said Sarah Chare, EA’s Director of Incident Management and Resilience. “The judges were also impressed with the alternative finance strategies the study identified and how this could be used to fund similar projects in other settings in the future.”
In declaring the project the International Excellence winner, officials highlighted the project’s success thus far in attracting significant non-military funding for the construction of flood risk measures. To date, officials said, approximately $6 million has been secured to test a number of nature-based solutions identified in the project.
Tyndall Air Force Base covers approximately 47 square miles and has many miles of coastline, making protecting the base a huge task.
The award by the EA serves as an endorsement of the project’s work to pursue innovation and partnering to develop natural infrastructure as a part of building a resilient installation. The project also coincides with increased interest from the Administration, Congress, and the Department of Defense (DOD) on the importance of nature-based infrastructure solutions.
Dr. Todd Bridges, a member of the Tyndall Coastal Resilience Team, serves as the National Lead for the Engineering With Nature® (EWN) initiative. In recent testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works during an oversight hearing on natural infrastructure, Bridges discussed the Tyndall project as an example of best practices within DOD.