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Posted 6/15/2015

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By Robert Kidd

SACRAMENTO, California – Brazil’s water-related challenges are similar to those in present-day California, but the South American nation’s approach to flood risk management is more similar to the approach used by the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century.

In an effort to fast-forward Brazil’s flood risk planning, a team of engineers from Brazil’s Agência Nacional de Águas spent several days in early June visiting U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District levee and dam projects as part of an ongoing partnership with the Corps.

“Having ANA representatives visit several Corps districts here on the West Coast was the culmination of a lot of hard work and collaboration that’s taken place over the past year,” said Nicholas Applegate, chief of the Sacramento District’s economic and risk analysis section. “This was a great opportunity for ANA engineers to actually see and touch some of our old and new flood risk management projects, hopefully taking home ideas to help address their specific flood risk management problems.”

“Brazil faces many challenges that are similar to those in California,” said Othon Fialho de Oliveira, ANA program manager. “We are facing multiple conflicting demands for water, development of housing in flood plains, reduced funding for water infrastructure projects and an ongoing drought.

“Specific areas where ANA seeks improvement are in meteorological monitoring, regulatory policy development, reservoir operations and flood risk management strategies,” said Oliveira.

“The focus of the ANA / USACE partnership, established in 2013, is to help advance flood risk and other water resources policies in Brazil by sharing the Corps’ flood risk management best practices and lessons learned through over 100 years of experience in the United States,” said Applegate, who has been working with ANA over the past year.

Applegate was part of the Corps team that helped facilitate a two-week multi-agency flood risk management workshop at ANA’s headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil’s national capital, in late March 2015.

“Brazil faces some very fundamental flood risk management challenges such as flood plain regulation, limited hydrologic data, risk communication, degrading ecosystems and a need for further clarification of roles and responsibilities between agencies,” said Applegate.

“The professionals in ANA and many other Brazilian agencies are extremely smart and passionate about what they are doing, but they are dealing with some very difficult issues,” said Applegate. “It’s been a profound experience to work with all of these great people and actually see a shift in their thinking and the potential for new and improved policies in Brazil.”

Formed in 1997, ANA is the primary water regulatory agency of Brazil. ANA engineers also help coordinate water projects with associated agencies at the federal, state and municipal level in Brazil. As an agency, ANA’s three overarching goals are “to ensure the sustainable use of rivers and lakes for current and future generations; coordinate the integrated management of water; and to prevent and/or mitigate the effects of flooding,” said Oliveira.

“Seeing their excitement when we visited the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and discussed the opportunities of multi-purpose planning and restoring the environment while still addressing flood risk management was phenomenal,” said Applegate.

“We are still in an early stage of development in our flood risk management strategy,” said Oliveira. “To this point, we have concentrated on infrastructure solutions and need to push on beyond that to examine solutions that work more in harmony with nature.”

Brazil Corps of Engineers flood risk management international partnership sacramento district U.S. Army