New England is susceptible to flooding from many sources - hurricanes in summer and fall, snowmelts in winter and spring, and coastal storms year round. As a result of the catastrophic floods in New England in 1936 and 1938, the Corps was called upon to undertake a comprehensive flood risk management program.
Since then the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has built many flood control structures throughout New England. These include:
- 36 dams and reservoirs in five river basins that hold back floodwaters until danger is past;
- One tidal barrier (Charles River);
- Dikes and floodwalls to contain floodwaters;
- Conduits to divert floodwaters;
- Five hurricane protection barriers that protect the shoreline, rivers, and harbors by closing waterways to tidal surges - the Corps currently operates and maintains the barriers at New Bedford, Massachusetts, Providence, Rhode Island and Stamford, Connecticut;
- Channel modifications to increase the carrying capacity of streams, thus reducing the possibility of flooding; and
- Nonstructural flood proofing
A unique effort was the Charles River Project, which incorporates a large dam with three locks in the downstream urban portion of the Charles River Basin in eastern Massachusetts with the Natural Valley Storage Project upstream. During the 1970s nearly 8,000 acres of property was acquired, either by easement or in fee, as part of USACE's first nonstructural flood control project in the nation.
USACE's flood control reservoirs are often designed and built for multiple-purpose uses, such as municipal and industrial water supply, navigation, irrigation, hydroelectric power, conservation of fish and wildlife, and recreation.
The following pages give a brief history and description of the Flood Risk Management Projects constructed by USACE in the New England states: