US Army Corps of Engineers
New England District

Civil Works Menu


Glossary of Terms

Anchorage - an area dredged to a certain depth to allow boats and ships to moor or anchor.

Bedrock - rock of relatively great thickness lying in its native location.

Breakwaters - structures, usually built offshore, that protect the shoreline, harbor, channels, and anchorages by intercepting the energy of approaching waves.

Bulkheads - steel sheet piling or timber walls that prevent sliding of the land and protect the stream bank or shoreline from erosion.

Conduits - concrete tunnels or pipes that divert floodwaters around or under potential flood damage sites.

Culverts - large pipes, usually constructed below bridges and other water crossings, that allow water to pass downstream and provide support to the crossing.

Dikes - earth fill barriers that confine floodwaters to the river channel, protecting flood prone areas.

Drainage Area ­ the total land area where surface water runs off and collects in a stream or series of streams that make up a single watershed.

Drop Structure ­ a device in a stream or channel that prevents water from rising above a certain elevation. Once water reaches a certain level, excess water passes over the structure and is diverted to another body of water.

Earthfill ­ a well graded mixture of soil containing principally gravel, sand, silt, and clay, which is used with other materials to construct dams, dikes, and hurricane protection barriers.

Environmental Assessment ­ an examination of the positive and adverse impacts on the environment of a proposed water resources solution and alternative solutions.

Environmental Impact Statement ­ a detailed environmental analysis and documentation of a proposed water resources solution when the proposed solution is expected to have a significant effect on the quality of the human environment or the area's ecology.

Feasibility Study ­ a detailed investigation, conducted after the reconnaissance study is completed, that recommends a specific solution to a water resource problem.

Floodplain ­ the land adjoining a river, stream, ocean, or lake that is likely to be flooded during periods of excess precipitation or abnormal high tide.

Floodproofing ­ structural measures incorporated in the design of planned buildings or alterations added to existing ones that lessen the potential for flood damage. For example, existing structures could have their basement windows blocked, or structures in the design stage could be built on stilts or high foundations.

Floodwalls ­ reinforced concrete walls that act as barriers against floodwaters and confine them to the river channel, protecting flood prone areas. Floodwalls are usually built in areas with a limited amount of space.

Gabion Wall ­ a retaining wall constructed of stone­filled wire mesh baskets.

Groins ­ structures that extend perpendicular from the shore in a fingerlike manner to trap and retain sand, retarding erosion and maintaining shore alignment and stability.

Hurricane Protection Barriers ­ structures built across harbors or near the shoreline that protect communities from tidal surges and coastal storm flooding. They are often constructed with openings for navigational purposes.

Intake Structure ­ found at the entrance to a conduit or other outlet facility, an intake structure allows water to drain from a reservoir or river and is equipped with a trash rack or other feature that prevents clogging from floating debris.

Jetties ­ structures that stabilize a channel by preventing the buildup of sediment and directing and confining the channel's tidal flow. Jetties are usually built at the mouth of rivers and extend perpendicular from the shore.

Outlet Works ­ gated conduits, usually located at the base of a dam, that regulate the discharge of water.

Pumping Station ­ a structure containing pumps that discharges floodwaters from a protected area over or through a dike or floodwall and into a river or ocean.

Reconnaissance Study ­ a preliminary study that examines a wide range of potential solutions to a water resources problem, each of which is reviewed for its economic and engineering practicality, acceptability, and impact on the environment.

Recreation Pool ­ any permanent body of water impounded by a dam that offers recreational opportunities or promotes fishery and wildlife habitat.

Retaining Walls ­ walls made of stone, reinforced concrete, precast concrete blocks, or gabion that support streambanks weakened by erosion.

Revetment ­ a facing of stone or concrete constructed along a backshore or riverbank to protect against erosion or flooding.

Sand Drain ­ a layer of pervious materials, such as sand and gravel, placed beneath the downstream section of a dam that carries seepage to the dam's downstream limits and out into the stream.

Sand Replenishment ­ quantities of sand placed on a shoreline to restore or widen a beach's dimensions. Sand replenishment strengthens beaches affected by erosion, protects the backshore from wave action, and stops the inland advance of water.

Seawall ­ a reinforced concrete wall built along a shoreline to protect against erosion or flooding.

Snagging and Clearing ­ the removal of accumulated snags and debris, such as fallen trees, dead brush, and silt, from river and stream channels. Snagging and clearing improves a channel's flow capacity and eliminates a potentially dangerous flood situation.

Spillway ­ a channel­shaped structure, usually made of concrete or excavated in rock, that allows water exceeding the storage capacity of a reservoir to pass through or around a dam instead of overtopping it.

Stone Slope Protection ­ a layer of large stones, usually underlain by a layer of gravel bedding, designed to prevent erosion from streamflow, wave attack, and runoff.

Stoplog Structure ­ a designed opening in a floodwall or dike that allows the passage of water during non­flood periods but closes during flood periods to prevent flooding downstream. Stoplog structures can be made of wood or steel or concrete beams.

Training Dike ­ a structure extending from the shore into the water that redirects the current, preventing sediment from settling and ensuring that adequate depths are maintained.

Training Wall ­ a structure built along channel banks to narrow the channel area, thereby controlling the velocity of the flow of water and preventing the buildup of sediment. Training walls and training dikes have the same purpose: to ensure adequate depths are maintained.

Vehicular Gate ­ an opening in a dike or floodwall that allows rail cars or other vehicles to pass over the structure during nonflood periods. Vehicular gates can be closed during flood periods by either stoplogs or large steel gates.

Weir ­ a concrete structure designed as part of the spillway that allows water to flow from the reservoir and over the spillway.