II Applications at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

Flood Risk Management

Matthew D. Wood, Igor Linkov, Daniel Kovacs, and Gordon Butte


The disastrous hurricane season in 2005 exposed several weaknesses in the storm and flood management plans along the U.S. coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. Specifically, Hurricane Katrina in late August 2005 and Hurricane Rita in mid- September 2005 placed immense strain on the engineering design and coastal management of many Gulf States, causing many to blame government response and planning for extreme storm and flood situations (such as levee construction and wetlands management; Cigler 2007; Johnson 2005). While most focused on these [1] [2]

factors as the primary driver behind the extensive damage to the Gulf Coast, recent inquiries have also discussed the role of other factors in extreme storm and flood planning, such as the importance of individual psychological factors of citizens to disaster management planning (Gheytanchi et al. 2007). Additional recommendations were issued by a discussion panel of The Institution of Civil Engineers prior to the dual-hurricane disaster. In their response, the Institution recommended that government agencies develop waterway expansion plans to accommodate rainfall and account more for human and societal factors during flood and extreme weather situations (Fleming 2002a, b).

Since 2005, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and similar U.S. government agencies have promoted interagency cooperation and inclusion of local stakeholders in their efforts to improve and restore coastal areas of Louisiana and Mississippi (National Research Council 2008; USACE 2008; Working Group for Post-Hurricane Planning for the Louisiana Coast 2006). Specifically, USACE and others seek to bolster stakeholder participation in these efforts by identifying stakeholder needs and goals for the region and incorporating these tasks into restoration efforts. In this effort, USACE seeks to shift from its focus on engineering for coastal protection to adopting coordination and cooperation strategies with authorities in state and local government. In this framework, state and local government stakeholders can help to improve information and coordination to coastal planning in ways that would not have otherwise been considered, thereby benefit- ting the local community (Hecker et al. 2008; Rabbon et al. 2008). Such state and local involvement can also help USACE in its duty to monitor and maintain 383 lakes and reservoirs, 8500 miles of dikes and levees, and over 240 miles of shoreline protection projects that require frequent upkeep (U.S. Army Engineer Institute for Water Resources 2009).

One recurring complication for government agencies is the expectation by many private citizens that these agencies will shoulder the task of flood risk management, even regarding the issues of l oss prevention and personal insurance (Gheytanchi et al. 2007; Vari et al. 2003, Lave and Lave 1991). This mind-set is further perpetuated by the substantial infrastructure and architecture networks developed by USACE and others to counter a flood event alongside the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirement, where many assume that personal responsibility and risk management are not required or necessary for the private citizen (Hecker et al. 2008; Rabbon et al. 2008). This is driven by multiple factors, including the general citizen’s difficulty in recalling the specifics of past flood events and a strong underestimation of the impact and likelihood that such a flood event could arise in the near future. While USACE’s National Flood Risk Management Program seeks to address some of these issues, further involvement by stakeholders and local citizens in flood risk management planning is needed to overcome remaining preconceptions by citizens that their active participation is not necessary in flood risk situations (Hecker et al. 2008; Rabbon et al. 2008).

Along with its efforts to develop stakeholder involvement and participation in flood risk management efforts, USACE and others are also working to bolster interagency coordination and cooperation in flood risk planning and risk management. Such interagency synchronization requires significant effort to organize and gain the participation of agencies such as FEMA, DHS, and a collection of various other federal, state, and local authorities for a multitude of flood risk projects and policies. Further complicating this situation include the difficulties of integrating the opinions, knowledge, and value assessments of various public and private stakeholders in a more formalized manner, where ad hoc measures to aggregate such information can easily lead to clutter and disorganization of policy measures and priorities. One such method to overcome this problem is Mental Modeling, which can facilitate improved understanding of deeply held risk and value beliefs in specific situations. For flood risk management, the use of Mental Modeling may help further stakeholder involvement in planning and execution, particularly where involving the everyday private citizen is concerned. Though policy experts, government officials, and private citizens have been demonstrated as having complex sets of values and differing opinions that are difficult to collectively address, we seek to demonstrate that Mental Modeling serves as a method to integrate a variety of opinions and inputs to advance flood risk management and policy goals (Lave and Lave 1991; Kolkman et al. 2007; Wagner 2007).

This chapter discusses perceptions of various USACE expert and lay stakeholders on flood risk management. Particularly, this chapter focuses on how different experts within USACE comprehend and understand flood risk management , and subsequently identifies potential areas for improvement in such areas from a policy perspective. One resulting contribution by this study includes an assessment of the differences in flood risk management perceptions and opinions by USACE engineers and policy planners, respectively, where we utilize information gathered from Mental Modeling interviews to serve as data for quantitative analysis. These two groups of USACE personnel are tasked with very different responsibilities in the flood risk management process, and a comparison of their expert judgments can help to illuminate areas for refining or improving the flood risk management process. Ultimately, this study’s results will assist USACE’s future flood risk management planning process and will help indicate to other agencies the types of activities and tools needed to improve flood risk policy by incorporating a variety of stakeholder beliefs and viewpoints.

To accomplish these goals, we assess the opinions and beliefs of two stakeholder groups within USACE on flood risk management. Additionally, we also make use of existing published research on the opinions of private citizens toward flood risk, including those containing mental models of flood risks and flood risk management. In this way, we demonstrate how we can integrate qualitative and quantitative information from existing scholarship while gathering new qualitative information from subject matter expert interviews. This allows for an improved comparison of flood risk management views across different stakeholders, where Mental Modeling serves as a formal method to assess subjective opinions and integrate such information in a transparent and quantitative manner. This chapter makes use of a literature review to understand how layperson perceptions should be considered when improv?ing the USACE FRM process and mental models interviews with USACE FRM experts to understand expert mental models of flood risk and how current processes can be improved.

  • [1] This chapter is adapted from work by Wood et al. (2012). Flood risk management: U.S. ArmyCorps of Engineers and layperson perceptions. Risk Analysis, 32(8), 1349-1368. Special thanks toDr. Todd Bridges, Senior Research Scientist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Researchand Development Center, for his contributions to this chapter. M.D. Wood, Ph.D. (*) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) andCarnegie Mellon University, 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742, USAe-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it
  • [2] Linkov, Ph.D. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) andCarnegie Mellon University, 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742, USAe-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it D. Kovacs , Ph.D. Decision Partners, 1458 Jersey Street, Lake Milton, OH 44429, USAe-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it G. Butte Decision Partners LLC , Suite 200, 313 East Carson Street , Pittsburgh , PA 15217 , USAe-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017 M.D. Wood et al., Mental Modeling Approach, Risk, Systems and Decisions,DOI 10.1007/978-1-4939-6616-5_4
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