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The D.C. Silver Jackets is an interagency team comprised of members from federal, District of Columbia and regional agencies, as well as academia. This team leverages resources to identify and implement comprehensive, resilient, and sustainable solutions to reduce flood risk around the district and to assist local communities. Flood risk management is critical in the District, as there are three types of flooding that can impact low areas of the city: river; coastal storm surge; and interior.
The District formalized its Silver Jackets team in 2014 through an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (pdf 1.05 MB) currently signed by 12 federal and District agencies. However, the full team extends well beyond these agencies. The D.C. Silver Jackets team first began meeting in April of 2012 as the Potomac River Flood Coordination Group. The Department of Energy and Environment is the lead agency for the District. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District and the National Park Service jointly lead the federal agencies.
The D.C. Silver Jackets has established five task groups: Development of Flood Inundation Mapping/Stream Gauges; Flood Emergency Planning; Interior Drainage Flooding; Levee Certification and Accreditation; and Flood Risk Communication. Each task group has respective responsibilities that will aid in fulfilling the team’s mission and goals.
In fall 2016, Connecting Delta Cities welcomed Washington as its newest official city member, joining 12 other cities, including Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Rotterdam, Venice, New York City and New Orleans. "These cities are the world's front runners, sharing knowledge and experience to keep their cities safe and livable. They are connected by a common goal: a climate-proof, resilient future for their residents and businesses." - CDC. The goal of CDC is to develop a network of delta cities that are active in the field of climate-change-related development, water management and adaptation in order to exchange knowledge and share best practices (like the DC Silver Jackets) to support development of adaptation strategies.
Without the proper implementation of a flood emergency plan, flood risk in the District of Columbia is high. There are numerous agencies that have roles and responsibilities during a flood, and they all must be fully prepared to respond in order to reduce the risk of flooding to residents and the critical downtown infrastructure. The District of Columbia’s interagency flood-fighting team, the Silver Jackets, completed a tabletop exercise on November 3, 2015, to test the effectiveness of its Flood Emergency Manual. This manual is undergoing revisions and details how federal, District, and public agencies will respond to flood emergencies in the region including emergency closures that are part of the Potomac Park levee system.
The District of Columbia's Flood Emergency Manual (FEM), dated March 2006, provides plans for Federal, District, and public agencies to respond to flood emergencies in the District, including emergency closures and the operation of the existing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Flood Risk Management projects to include the Potomac Park Levee 17th Street closure structure. Without the proper implementation of a flood emergency plan, flood risk in the District is high. There are numerous agencies that have roles and responsibilities during a flood, and they all must be fully prepared to respond. Therefore, members of the District's Silver Jackets team are currently updating the FEM. The team will test the effectiveness of the plan through a flood-fighting tabletop exercise. The exercise will be a one-day event where representatives from all necessary agencies walk through a planned-storm scenario and determine what actions they would take. Afterwards, the team will regroup to address any changes that may need to be made to the draft FEM. This exercise will ensure better effectiveness of the FEM and will help the affected agencies to be better prepared for future flood events. The updated FEM will also feed into a later project to develop a city-wide flood emergency plan.
The Silver Jackets team prioritized ensuring the coordination and completion of the “17th Street closure” in Washington, DC. The 17th Street closure structure is situated between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, and it reduces risk to human safety and critical infrastructure in downtown District of Columbia from flooding of the Potomac River. It was constructed and is regulated by the Corps of Engineers, and is operated and maintained by the National Park Service. The 17th Street closure is a removable structure that can be erected in the event of high water to attach to the floodwalls on both sides of 17th Street and consists of aluminum panels between steel posts. Stone cladding application on the 17th Street floodwall was designed to blend in with the historic landscape of the National Mall. The closure is part of the Potomac Park Levee System and the Washington, D.C. and Vicinity Local Flood Protection Project. The team is also looking into similar permanent closures at 23rd Street, 2nd and P streets; and raising the Potomac Park Levee 3.5 feet to increase the level of protection to the authorized flow rate.
The Washington, DC, Silver Jackets Team developed an online flood inundation mapping tool project that will help government leaders, emergency managers, and the public better predict flood impacts during high-water events in the D.C. metropolitan area. This tool provides two sets of maps: one that shows predicted riverine flooding along the Potomac River; and another that shows predicted tidal/storm surge flooding along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. The tool is housed on the NWS website.
The Washington, DC, Silver Jackets Team is working on updating the D.C. Flood Emergency Manual and held a tabletop exercise in November 2015 to test the current manual.
The Washington, DC, Silver Jackets Team evaluates ways to reduce flood risk in the “Federal Triangle” section of the city through continuous collaboration, identification and quantification of flood risk, providing assistance in implementing projects, and improving outreach on flood risk.
More than 150 experts gathered to discuss flooding in our nation’s capital at Gallaudet University, Sept. 8, 2016, marking the first flood summit of its kind in Washington. The summit, which was organized by the DC Silver Jackets, occurred the week of the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Fran that engulfed Washington in 1996.
The District of Columbia Silver Jackets received funding for fiscal 2017 to conduct a 1.5-year flood risk mitigation study for neighborhoods along Watts Branch, which is a tributary of the Anacostia River, in the northeast corner of the District of Columbia. These neighborhoods are in a special flood-hazard area (within the 100-year floodplain) and consist of high-density residential and non-residential structures and critical infrastructure with vulnerable populations, including a public housing development. These high-risk flood zone areas will likely expand even further considering the effects of climate change.
DC Department of Energy and Environment, Email, 202-439-5715
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Baltimore District, Email, 410-962-4977