Environmental Stewardship

As the nation’s environmental engineer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages one of the largest federal environmental missions: restoring degraded ecosystems; constructing sustainable facilities; regulating waterways; managing natural resources; and, cleaning up contaminated sites from past military activities. 

Portland District contributes to the strength of the region and Nation through innovative and environmentally sustainable solutions to water resources challenges. In particular, the District works to improve significant ecosystem function, structure, and dynamic processes that have been degraded and looks for ways to naturally store floodwaters, improve water quality and restore fish and wildlife habitat.

USACE supports ecosystem sustainability as a mission focus for all project development and land management decisions. This focus reflects protection of our natural resources under numerous federal laws, including the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), Clean Water Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, Endangered Species Act, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and Migratory Bird Conservation Act. 


Environmental restoration projects

Images from our environmental stewardship missions

The USACE environmental mission has two major focus areas: restoration and stewardship. The Corps' goal for the environmental mission is to restore ecosystem structure and processes, manage the nation's land and water resources in a sustainable manner and support cleanup and protection activities in an efficient and effective manner. 

Portland District works to restore degraded ecosystem structure, function and dynamic processes to a more natural condition through habitat restoration projects and by employing system-wide watershed approaches to problem solving and management for smaller ecosystem restoration projects. USACE’s regulatory program works to ensure no net loss of wetlands while issuing about 90,000 permits a year, nationwide.


Hydroelectric power and fish

The second largest river system in the U.S., the Columbia Basin drains 260,000 square miles. Roughly 400 dams and diversion structures were built in the basin over a 70-year period. While this Federal Columbia River Power System provides irrigation water, flood mitigation, navigation and recreation, it has also critically impacted several fish species. The Corps of Engineers’ role is to operate this hydropower system in coordination with other producers to balance the needs of fish with other uses. 

Willamette Valley Biological Opinion: On July 11, 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries issued biological opinions to complete consultations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bonneville Power Administration and the Bureau of Reclamation on the impact of the Willamette Project on ESA-listed species in the Willamette River Basin. For more about Willamette Valley Project Biological Opinions, contact the Willamette Program Manager at 503-808-4766.


Navigation and sediment

Our first mission, eliminating impediments to navigation on the Pacific Northwest's rivers, dates back to 1871. Sediment evaluation in support of dredging for navigation is an integral part of both private industry and Portland District's civil works.

Adaptive Environmental Management: The primary purpose is managing the channel improvement project to avoid or minimize negative impacts related to channel deepening of the lower Columbia River and estuary. This process evaluates effectiveness of compliance measures, monitoring actions and research to ensure the impacts of project construction, operation and maintenance are no greater than described in the Biological Assessment / Opinion. 

Sediment Quality: The Corps and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency share federal responsibility for the regulation of dredged material within waters of the United States under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and for the regulation of dredged material in ocean waters under section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act.


Natural resource management and recreation

As the nation’s largest Federal provider of outdoor and water-based recreation, the Corps works every day to preserve, manage and improve our nation’s public lands and waters.

Portland District provides quality public outdoor recreation to serve the needs of present and future generations, while managing and conserving natural resources. The Portland District’s recreation program offers world class wind surfing, excellent fly fishing, and a wide assortment of camping, hiking, boating, fishing, biking, geocaching, and wildlife viewing opportunities. More than 90 percent of our recreation areas are within 50 miles of a city or town.

Environmental operating principles

  • Foster sustainability as a way of life throughout the organization.
  • Proactively consider environmental consequences of all Corps activities and act accordingly.
  • Create mutually supporting economic and environmentally sustainable solutions.
  • Continue to meet our corporate responsibility and accountability under the law for activities undertaken by the Corps, which may impact human and natural environments.
  • Consider the environment in employing a risk management and systems approach throughout the life cycles of projects and programs.
  • Leverage scientific, economic and social knowledge to understand the environmental context and effects of Corps actions in a collaborative manner.
  • Employ an open, transparent process that respects views of individuals and groups interested in Corps activities.

    For more information on these principles, visit USACE headquarters.