S7 E5 EWN Atlas 3 Launch Coming Soon – 58 Inspiring NBS Projects

Air Date: April 3, 2024

About This Episode

Innovation and collaboration are cornerstones of Engineering With Nature (EWN). Sharing projects, demonstrating outcomes, and inspiring practitioners around the world is an important part of advancing EWN. The Engineering With Nature Atlas series, initiated in 2018, has been key to showcasing the incredible work happening around the world. Season 7, Episode 5, kicks off the launch of Engineering With Nature: An Atlas, Volume 3.

Left: EWN Atlas, Volume 3, Cover. The habitat in a portion of the Lower Dungeness River project wetted floodplain. (Photo by John Gussman). Source: EWN Atlas, Volume 3. Right: Flyer for EWN Atlas, Volume 3. Source: EWN Website.

Host Sarah Thorne is joined by cohost Burton Suedel, Research Biologist at the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and Zelini Hubbard, Senior Project Manager at Anchor QEA and Project Manager for Atlas 3. Jeff King, Lead of the Engineering With Nature Program at USACE offers comments at the end of the episode.

Zelini has collaborated with ERDC on a number of projects, including the International Guidelines on Natural and Nature-Based Features for Flood Risk Management and more recently on Guidelines for How to Approach Thin-Layer Placement Projects published in November 2023 and featured in Season 6, Episode 9. Sarah asked Zelini, who is a first-time guest on the podcast, to talk about her passion for being a steward for the environment and her community: “Those two themes connect throughout my working and personal life. I integrate them through volunteering and just through my interconnections and interactions with people. I think even the smallest thing can have the greatest impact and contribute in many different ways.”

Zelini and Burton participating in the taping of Episode 5. From left to right, Dave Trafford, producer of the EWN Podcast; Zelini Hubbard; Burton Suedel; and Sarah Thorne, host and coproducer of the EWN Podcast. Photo Courtesy Dave Trafford.

The EWN Atlas series demonstrates the power of EWN in action, highlighting projects from around the world that exemplify EWN concepts, principles, and practices. Volume 1, published in 2018, showcases 56 projects. Volume 2, published in 2021, presents an additional 62 projects. And Volume 3, to be published in May 2024, includes 58 new projects. As Burton explains, 15 are USACE projects, with the rest from partner organizations; 19 projects are from outside the US, with projects represented from four continents.

Each Atlas is organized in chapters, presenting projects in various environmental contexts—beaches and dunes, wetlands, islands, reefs, riverine systems, and floodplains—as well as chapters on specific project types, such as the use of vegetation and natural materials, and projects on environmental enhancements of existing infrastructure. As Sarah notes, one of the purposes of making these “coffee table books” is to “demonstrate to people that Engineering With Nature is actually happening now.” Burton agrees, noting, “These days, I don’t travel without taking at least one copy of an Atlas with me to share with others. And when I hear back from recipients, their feedback is how the Atlas inspired them to think about how they could incorporate nature-based solutions into their infrastructure projects.”

Conversations with EWN Atlas, Volume 3, Contributors

In preparation for this episode, Sarah spoke with five contributors to Volume 3 whose projects exemplify the quality of EWN projects being implemented around the world.

Cathy Lear is a Senior Habitat Biologist at Clallam County. The Lower Dungeness River Project she led is in Clallam County, Washington, USA. This project incorporated nature-based solutions (NBS) to restore a floodplain. Describing the benefits of the project, Cathy said: “We were able to reconnect the river to 175 acres of its historic floodplain. The Dungeness is one of the most important rivers on the North Olympic Peninsula and home to four ESA-listed species. So being able to reconnect the river and the floodplain meant we were able to vastly improve habitat, as well as reducing flood risk for the surrounding community.” This project is a great example of harnessing the power of rivers to do the job that nature intended and was chosen for the cover of Volume 3.

Left: The Dungeness River Floodplain Restoration project removed a levee built by USACE in the 1960s that created unintended consequences for river processes, flood risk, and aquatic habitat. The restoration project, a partnership between Clallam County, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, USACE, state and federal agencies, local nonprofits, and the surrounding community, built a setback levee, and removed a road bisecting the floodplain. (Photo by John Gussman.) Right: View of project-engineered logjam natural and nature-based features during flooding in December 2022. (Photo by John Gussman.) Source: EWN Atlas, Volume 3.

Mary Kate Brown is Assistant Coastal Programs Director for The Nature Conservancy in Alabama. She talks about how the Lightning Point Restoration Project in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, used green and gray infrastructure to revitalize a culturally important shoreline. As Mary Kate notes, the project has been very successful: “We did both green and gray infrastructure. While green infrastructure sometimes works great by itself and the gray works great by itself, when you mix the two of them together, they work fabulously—beyond their individual potential. We survived four hurricanes in the active season of 2020, and one of them was a 125-year type of storm, just three months after we finished construction, and this site survived. That is fabulous.”

Left: May 2022 aerial view of the Lightning Point Restoration Project site showing the health and stability of the project after two hurricane seasons. This area is important to the seafood and fisheries industry as well as recreational activities. TNC hired Moffatt & Nichol to design an innovative project to restore habitats and resources lost to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in a variety of subtidal, intertidal, and higher scrub shrub environments. (Photo by of Sam St. John.) Right top: Hydraulic dredging and material placement to restore the West Marsh Creation Area out to the newly constructed shoreline protection. (Photo by Moffatt & Nichol.) Right bottom: A marsh buggy excavator excavating to restore tidal flow to the adjacent 45-acre north marsh and wetland area, which had been deprived of daily tidal influence over several decades. (Photo by Moffatt & Nichol.) Source: EWN Atlas, Volume 3.

Samantha Belcik is a Biologist and Planner with the Chicago District, USACE. She describes the Fort Sheridan Project in Lake County, Illinois, whichused historical native plant ecotypes and natural processes to restore a coastal ecosystem. Sam notes the importance of the Fort Sheridan Project as an example of the EWN principles: “It was holistic, science-based, innovative, sustainable, and collaborative. This project was a restoration of the ravine down into the coastal system at Lake Michigan and actually in the water as well, in the lacustrine zone. We took an approach of looking at the ecosystem from the upland to the underwater. It’s all connected.”

Left: Aerial view of restored woodland, ravine, and ravine stream in the Fort Sheridan Ravine project. The project aimed to bring ecological benefits to the coastal environment on the Lake Michigan shoreline, from the ravines down into the nearshore underwater habitats, and social and economic benefits to the community. (Photo by Fadeout Media.) Right top: Completed habitat reefs in the Lake Michigan nearshore highlight the innovative limestone blocks. (Photo by USACE Chicago District.) Right bottom: Step pool cascade with restored sediment transport under the bridge connecting foot trails to the natural stone retaining wall within the ravine. (Photo by Fadeout Media). Source: EWN Atlas, Volume 3.

Zoe Elliott Perkins is a Senior Coastal Engineer on the Beaches Team for the City of Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. She was part of the team on the Palm Beach Artificial Reef Project in Palm Beach, Queensland, Australia, which constructed an artificial reef to provide coastal protection and recreational resources. Zoe describes the importance of collaboration and consultation and ensuring the project provided environmental and social benefits. “We really felt like our Palm Beach shoreline project aligned so well with Engineering With Nature. We incorporated collaboration with subject matter experts and also extensive community consultation and engagement. One of the reasons why the project was selected was due to the low visual impact that it would have on the local area as the artificial reef is submerged.”

Left: For decades, Palm Beach suffered significant erosion, threatening beachfront infrastructure and jeopardizing the lifestyles of locals through the loss of beach and recreational amenities. The Palm Beach Shoreline Project followed a “design with nature” approach consisting of nearshore nourishment and the construction of the Palm Beach artificial reef, which has a 160-meter-long and 80-meter-wide footprint, sitting 1.5 meters below the average water level at its highest point. (Photo by City of Gold Coast.) Right top: Construction of the artificial reef used 60,000 tonnes of rock, weighing up to 8 tonnes each and quarried from southeast Queensland. (Photo by City of Gold Coast.) Right bottom: Sand rainbow nourishing the nearshore at Palm Beach. Over 470,000 cubic meters of sand was delivered to the nearshore via bottom dumping and rainbowing. (Photo by City of Gold Coast.) Source: EWN Atlas, Volume 3.

David Johnston is a Project Engineer and Acting Team Lead in the Waterways Section of the USACE Huntington District. He led the Ohio River Bonanza Bar Project in Portsmouth, Ohio, which used dredged material beneficially to create ecological habitats and restore the historical footprint. As David describes the benefits of the project: “The river at this location is considerably wider than areas just upstream of where this bar is located. That results in an area of reduced velocities and the formation of sand waves in the navigation channel that have to be dredged to maintain the channel. So placing the dredge material on the adjacent bars resulted in a constriction of the navigation channel. Since 2016, we have experienced a decrease in the quantity and frequency of dredging needed at this location, which the District attributes to the increased velocities within the navigation channel caused by the constriction.”

Left: Bonanza Bar island looking downstream, with the material remaining eight months after the last dredge placement and following multiple high-water events. Bonanza Bar is an ephemeral island near the City of Portsmouth, seated between the banks of the States of Ohio and Kentucky in the Ohio River. The USACE Huntington District received approval from the Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) to hydraulically “stack” dredged material near the bankline, with the specific intent to leave space sufficient for sustaining back-channel habitat in the slack waters created by the bar. (Photo by USACE Huntington District) Right top: Placement of Bonanza Bar dredge material by clamshell dredge contractor. (Photo by USACE Huntington District) Right bottom: Migratory birds settling following material placement. Note the clearly defined back channel looking toward the Kentucky bank line. (Photo by USACE Huntington District) Source: EWN Atlas, Volume 3.

These stories, and 53 others are featured in Atlas 3. Burton and Zelini hope the new Atlas gets wide use. As Zelini notes, “All 58 projects really do provide interesting examples of how nature-based solutions (NBS) are being applied to a broad range of challenges. I think it’s a real feat that the work of so many has been distilled down into a digestible and readable document. I think your listeners will find that Atlas 3 is a tremendous resource, and I hope they enjoy it.” Burton agrees: “From beaches and dunes to wetlands, islands, and reefs and enhancing conventional infrastructure, I think listeners will find wonderful examples of how NBS are innovatively and creatively being incorporated by project teams around the world who are looking for new and better ways to integrate NBS in solving important challenges, particularly related to natural hazards related to climate change.” He adds, “What we’re striving to do is to share best practices worldwide, inspire actions in others, foster the confidence in our collective vision and encourage others to incorporate NBS into their infrastructure projects.”

Jeff King, Lead of the Engineering With Nature Program, agreed: “Atlas 3 really reflects the best of the best work being done by colleagues across the Corps of Engineers and around the world. With the quality of the projects and the caliber of the principal investigators, it really was a hard task to just choose 58 projects—we received so many more nominations.”

Jeff thanked the entire team that worked on Atlas, Volume 3, and all the contributors: “Thanks to Zelini and Burton for their leadership on this project. I also want to thank Courtney Chambers, Amanda Tritinger, Michelle Bourne, and our USACE Technical Editor, Emily Moynihan. I’d also like to offer special thanks to Ram Mohan with Anchor QEA, and every one of the Atlas 3 contributors for their truly first-class effort.” He adds, “I’d like to personally invite all our listeners to check out the new Atlas, Volume 3, and all of the wonderful work being done—it will be available in May 2024. I hope all our listeners and readers will be inspired by the projects we’re featuring.”

(Podcast guests from left to right) Dr. Jeff King (USACE-ERDC), Dr. Burton Suedel (USACE-ERDC), and Zelini Hubbard (Anchor QEA)
(Contributors from left to right) Zoe Elliott Perkins, Samantha Belcik, Mary Kate Brown, Cathy Lear, and Dave Johnston

Episode Guests

Senior Project Manager, Anchor QEA & Project Manager for Atlas 3

National Lead, USACE EWN Program

Research Biologist, Environmental Laboratory, ERDC


Engineering With Nature; EWN; N-EWN; natural and nature-based features; NNBF; nature-based solutions; NBS; natural infrastructure; ecosystem restoration; ecological engineering; ecosystem services; climate change; climate adaptation; collaboration; extreme weather events; community resilience; adaptation; EWN Atlas

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