USACE Interim Environmental Justice Plan Supports Underserved Communities

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published Feb. 2, 2023
Updated: Feb. 2, 2023

WASHINGTON – Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a groundbreaking for the Caño Martin Peña ecosystem restoration project in Puerto Rico. This project will restore a tidal canal and renourish an ecosystem while revitalizing historically marginalized communities.


Projects like Caño Martin Peña demonstrate USACE’s commitment to deliver infrastructure that works for everyone.


To further promote these efforts, USACE in December published a new Interim Environmental Justice Strategic Plan with the goal of enhancing relationships with tribal nations and disadvantaged and underserved communities. The plan will foundationally change how the USACE Civil Works program supports and communicates with partners in the future.


In March 2022, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael L. Connor directed USACE to prepare a strategic plan in his interim guidance for the implementation of environmental justice and the Justice40 initiative. The guidance encourages USACE to modernize the Civil Works program to better serve the needs of disadvantaged communities and is available at


“We’ve been challenged to think broader and more proactively about our engagement in order to build strong and meaningful relationships with all of our partners, especially tribal nations and underserved communities,” said Mr. Edward E. Belk, USACE deputy commanding general for civil and emergency operations. “These relationships will help us better serve the needs of disadvantaged communities through our infrastructure and actions.”


This Interim Environmental Justice Strategic Plan will help USACE enhance its outreach and engagement with communities and encourage the entire USACE Civil Works organization to understand partner and stakeholder needs and problems, identify opportunities to address those challenges — which may or may not be a USACE project or program, and commit to identifying and removing barriers to partnerships with communities.


Through this engagement, USACE will focus on delivering whole-of-government solutions, understanding that not just one agency or level of government can always be the solution to the problems that a community is experiencing. Most importantly, USACE will work with communities to ensure their unique needs and challenges are considered in future projects and that they have access to the benefits provided by Civil Works programs. When USACE does not have the authority to assist communities, the agency will help communities navigate through federal processes and find partners who can potentially help solve their water resources challenges.

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The Strategic Plan, available at, establishes seven critical objectives to guide the successful implementation of Environmental Justice policy, including:

1) Improving the timing and quality of outreach to local communities and access to USACE Civil Works information and resources.

2) Forming strong partnerships within and outside of the government to strengthen underserved and disadvantaged community participation in USACE programs and activities.

3) Developing and optimizing USACE resources to broaden internal expertise through the continual refinement and application of tools, training, and products centered on environmental justice.

4) Strengthening tribal relationships by taking advantage of opportunities to listen and increase effective communication while enhancing USACE’s ability to understand and respond to tribal water resources needs.

5) Improving awareness, access, and participation for USACE Civil Works technical assistance programs while maximizing assistance that benefits underserved and disadvantaged communities.

6) Forming effective partnerships, early engagement, and ensuring comprehensive analysis of a full range of benefits for USACE studies and programs.

7) Developing whole-of-government solutions, where possible, for all aspects and phases of USACE Civil Works programs, from study development to construction and operation of projects.


Finally, USACE is in process of drafting strategic plans and has identified dedicated environmental justice coordinators at the district and division levels to act as local points of contact to address each region’s unique needs and challenges. USACE has also hired an Environmental Justice program manager at headquarters to provide program oversight and guidance.

For more information

Contact: Gene Pawlik, 202-761-7690 Doug Garman, 202-761-1807