Contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District install a 23-foot-tall concrete shaft enclosure weighing approximately 120,000 pounds as part of the guard wall at the Monongahela River Locks and Dam 4 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, Nov. 16, 2023.

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The Great Lakes Engineering with Nature Playbook

Chicago District
Published March 20, 2023

Engineering With Nature® is the intentional alignment of natural and engineering

processes to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental, and social benefits through collaboration.


Strong words. But what does this mean in practice, and what are the implications for the Great Lakes? 

Simply put, Engineering with Nature (EWN) means combining natural processes and engineering solutions to develop sustainable solutions for managing coastlines, infrastructure, waterways, and more. EWN considers three viewpoints for every project: social, environmental and economic aspects. 

Using natural processes to maximize benefits and basing our projects on sound science and engineering while taking those natural processes into account can minimize the environmental footprint of projects and can enhance the quality of project benefits all while making the most efficient use of limited resources.

So what does this have to do with the Great Lakes? A lot!

The historic low lake levels followed by several years of record high water levels left a swath of coastal damage. Coastal resiliency and sustainability are critical for the survival of communities along the Great Lakes shorelines; much of our valuable infrastructure has shown to be susceptible to damage cause by the high water levels and storms. Coastal resiliency (the assessment of vulnerable coastal areas) is a separate study, but to protect the shoreline infrastructure in a sustainable manner we must have tools. Sustainable approaches that work with nature and ensure not only protection of our human environment, but also protection of our natural environment. 

The Great Lakes Engineering with Nature Playbook will fill this gap in knowledge. USACE, already an international leader in EWN, is leading the effort to develop a playbook that will help coastal communities around the Great Lakes implement EWN solutions to coastal erosion and vulnerability. To kick-start this effort, the Chicago District worked with ERDC, Detroit District and Buffalo District to host a workshop on defining the EWN playbook. Over 90 participants, both in person and virtual, met in January 2023 to discuss key topics and playbook features. This is the first step in a three-year project, but in the meantime, it’s not too early to think about EWN and sustainable approaches to infrastructure projects. 

For more information about EWN, including the GL Playbook, here is the link to their website:

Chick Lock

Through deeds, not words, we are BUILDING STRONG®