Archive for March, 2008

The Pulse and the Mitigation

March 28th, 2008
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I wanted to give you a quick update on the Missouri River “pulse” and mitigation actions we are taking to eliminate its effects downstream of Kansas City.

We did initiate the seasonal “pulse” to release additional water from the Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River in South Dakota at midnight Tuesday night (March 25). This is something we’re required by law to do so that there is enough water in the upper reaches of the river for the endangered pallid sturgeon to spawn…areas that did not receive the “natural pulse” of recent rains.

I can’t stress enough that we wouldn’t have released this in the first place if we had felt it would negatively impact health and safety. I do understand, however, that many people are worried, and because of that, we worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find an alternative that will alleviate any concerns about flooding downstream.

We are reducing the amount of water we release from five other reservoirs in the Kansas City area that feed into the river system farther down the line. This will eliminate the effect of the pulse below Kansas City completely, and remove any risk to the areas impacted by the recent flooding.

Thank you for your feedback and for keeping us accountable. It is our mission and commitment to protect public health and human safety as we fulfill our responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Civil Works, Corps Projects, Infrastructure, Locks and Dams , , , , ,

Balancing the Nation’s Water Resources

March 25th, 2008

(Originally posted March 25, 2008)

Here at the Corps, we are often faced with many challenges as we serve the Nation. Managing our precious water resources in sustainable ways that serve the needs of both people and nature is one of the biggest of those challenges.

One of the critical balancing acts begins at midnight tonight, March 25, as we initiate a two-day “pulse” of water from the Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River in South Dakota, to make sure there is enough water downstream for the endangered pallid sturgeon. This increased water flow is essential to the fish in the upper reaches of the river – an area that has not experienced any of the recent rains, and is experiencing very low water levels right now.

I want to say right up front that we would not be doing this if we felt that there was any risk to the health and safety of the people downstream. Given the forecast models we’re looking at now, the flows resulting from this pulse won’t be anywhere near high river stages. We are closely monitoring the forecasts and runoff and if anything changes, we are prepared to make adjustments. We are releasing this pulse to comply with the Endangered Species Act, and the judgments of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experts who have determined that this release of water is the best way to replicate the increased water flows that would happen naturally in the spring, if there were no dams on the river. Over the course of the year, the impact of the pulse will reduce the levels in each of the large upper three reservoirs by less than a tenth of a foot.

Also, it’s very important to note that there won’t be any impact to historical and cultural sites along the reservoirs that are significant to the Missouri River Basin Tribes. Finally, I want to reemphasize that we would not initiate the Missouri River pulse if we were aware of any risk to the health and safety of people down river, or if we thought that we would be adding to their current hardships from the flooding.

Our thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery go out to all those who have been so terribly affected.

Civil Works, Corps Projects, Environment/Sustainability, Locks and Dams , , , , , , ,

USACE Around the World Part 3 – New York City

March 18th, 2008
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Guest Blog by MG Bo Temple
(Original Posted March 18, 2008)
Well, I put on my traveling boots again, this time for a much shorter trip to Fort Drum, N.Y. It was ironic to me that the weather in New York was colder than in Alaska a week earlier!
As I drove around the installation, I saw new facilities being constructed around every corner. Over the next few years, we’ll be working hard to build facilities to support the addition of three brigade combat teams. Before those units can come to Fort Drum, we have to build new headquarters, barracks, housing, child development centers, and various other support facilities.
This is one of the many facilities under construction in NY.

This is one of the many facilities under construction in NY.

This enormous boom in construction is being skillfully handled by a program manager named Ed, and his highly motivated team. One of the best parts of my job is meeting members of our team – I really enjoyed visiting with all of the folks at Fort Drum, like Jerry, one of our team leaders. We all have important jobs to do in support of our nation’s defense – I was reminded of this when I met a program analyst named Cheryl who has been working very hard over the past year to support the Soldiers on the installation while her husband was bravely serving in Iraq.
On my visit I also toured a Child Development Center that is under construction.  I met the project engineer team leader Brett, the building contractor, and, I was surprised to meet the customer, Becky. In fact, it was Becky, who serves as the operational specialist for child development, who walked me through the site pointing out the features of the building.  It was interesting to see the relationship that the area office had fostered between her and the contractor to ensure the finished project will be what the customer needs. I can tell that our children are in good hands.
I later toured a storage and maintenance facility for the fleet of snow removal equipment at the Wheeler Sack Army Airfield.  The project engineer Dick, also known as “Rambo-Tool Man”, had helped deliver a high quality facility on time and below the programmed amount. The customer had moved into the facility only days before my visit, and they were very pleased by the final product.
Throughout my travels I saw a number of successful projects and met a number of outstanding people.  For every name I mentioned above (or in the other two blog posts), there are dozens of others whose hard work and dedication are critical to providing the quality of facilities we are delivering today. I was amazed by the number of projects that were being constructed on time, within cost, and without accidents or injuries.  The Corps’ professional staff is working hard to make sure that our service members and their families have facilities for work and leisure activities that are commensurate with the tremendous level of service they are providing to our great nation.
It was a great whirlwind of a trip. Thanks for letting me share some of my experiences with you.

Corps Projects, Family Readiness, Infrastructure, Military Programs

USACE Around the World Part 2 Alaska

March 17th, 2008
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(Originally posted March 17, 2008)

Special Guest Posting by MG Bo Temple
After a few days enjoying one of coldest Okinawan winters in recent memory (with lows in the 50s), I went “North, to Alaska” to spend some time with Colonel Kevin Wilson and his great team at the Alaska Engineer District.  I was pleased to hear that I had missed the cold snap a couple weeks prior to my visit, and enjoyed the weather in the 20s and 30s.
The good weather allowed us to travel north from the district office to visit a variety of projects in central Alaska.  I was very excited to see the rehabilitated Central Heating and Power Plant at Ft. Wainwright. This project was completed about a year ago by a highly competent crew led by a great engineer named John. This critical facility upgraded the heating and electric power sources for all the facilities and housing on the military installation.  In a place where temperatures drop to minus 40 degrees, heating and power are an absolute necessity and this new facility provides peace of mind to the Soldiers and their Families who depend on it. 
The gang at the Central Heating and Power Plant at Ft. Wainwright

The gang at the Central Heating and Power Plant at Ft. Wainwright

My next stop was the new post hospital. The hospital commander and staff were very pleased with the facility constructed by Roger, the project manager, and his team. We all know how important it is to provide quality health care to Soldiers and their families; this facility helps ensure the Army is keeping its promise to do that.
I also had the opportunity to see some of the family housing at Fort Wainwright, which was truly impressive. My executive officer, Major Rob Kimmel, and I walked through a company grade officer’s quarters. We both were amazed by the quality, the layout, and the size of the quarters. These houses, being constructed by Phil and his team, are the kind of quarters that a Soldier can be proud to live in. 
Then it was off to visit Fort Greely, where we toured a group of facilities recently constructed for the Missile Defense Program.  These highly technical facilities have to be constructed to exacting standards, and our team is meeting that challenge head-on.  Their support to the Soldiers who man the facilities is critical to our national defense.  The customer was very pleased with the outstanding work we have done, as well as the work that is on-going.
At Eielson Air Force Base, I toured a new chapel that is under construction.  The project is beautifully designed and won a prestigious design award. The project manager, Jeff, and the rest of the team are building a facility that the Airmen and their families will enjoy for years to come.  Similarly, Jack, a Quality Assurance Representative, is helping construct a gorgeous expansion project at the Eielson Fitness Facility that will provide an indoor track and exercise field that Airmen will be enjoying during the long winter months for years to come.
I then headed south to Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base.  These two bases are being combined in a new Joint Basing Initiative and will soon be known simply as Elmendorf.  The merger changes the way the district interacts with the bases, and changes the types of facilities we are constructing.  Colonel Wilson and his team are doing an outstanding job working through the issues as they come up, ensuring that they continue to provide the same high level of support to the customer. 
I visited a number of projects on both sides of the base, including some barracks constructed using the standard designs developed through our new operating principles, known as Military Construction Transformation. This is our initiative to deliver projects at a 15 percent savings from traditional cost expectations, while reducing construction time by 30 percent. I was impressed by our team and by the quality of the facilities being constructed at or below the programmed amount.
After this long trip, I returned home for a couple of days to thaw out before hitting the road again – next I’ll tell you about my visit to Fort Drum, N.Y. – where the people warmed my heart, even though the weather was freezing!

Corps Projects, Military Programs , , , , , , ,

USACE Around the World Part 1 Japan

March 14th, 2008

(Originally posted March 14, 2008)

Guest Posting by MG Bo Temple
LTG Van Antwerp asked me to share my experiences from my visit to Japan last month. In February, I spent some time with District Engineer Colonel Barrett Holmes and his team.
I had the pleasure of joining the Japan Engineer District at the annual Senior Engineer Conference, a joint forum sponsored by the District and the United States Forces Japan. At the conference, we discussed a variety of issues involving the current and future construction programs taking place throughout Japan.  The event was a big success due to the hard work of people like Keily, known by most as “Snoopy.”
During my trip, I visited a number of the key projects sites on the main Japanese island of Honshu, including a wharf upgrade project at Yokosuka where the U.S. Navy will soon deploy the USS George Washington and its crew. Our team is upgrading the berth itself, and building a high quality water facility, a new power station facility, and a series of utility tunnels that will connect the generation plant to the wharf upgrades. These projects wouldn’t be possible without the outstanding work of people like Arnold, the project engineer for the wharf upgrade, and Yoshio, the quality assurance representative and electrical engineer on the power upgrades.
A project briefing at the Iawakuni airstrip in Japan

A project briefing at the Iwakuni airstrip in Japan

From Yokosuka I traveled south to Iwakuni.  The folks there are literally moving mountains.  The Marine Corps requires a new runway, but the only way to expand the base is out into the water.  So, Setsuharu, and others on the team there, are making land where there was none. Through exemplary technical and leadership skills they relocated more than 21 million cubic meters of earth from a nearby mountaintop to create 533 acres of new land for the new runway.  Their close coordination with the Government of Japan, the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps made this project happen.  

My final stop was in Okinawa, where I visited the vast array of projects that our dedicated people are responsible for. Dawn, the Okinawa Area Engineer, and Dewai, the chief of Project Management Branch-Okinawa, have been instrumental in managing the diverse joint program throughout the island.
I visited a beautiful middle school that will be ready for students next year.  I was truly impressed by the quality of construction that the Ryukyu resident engineer, Shigeru, and the rest of the team are delivering.  These facilities are on par with the finest schools in any city in the United States – service members and their families who are considering an assignment in Okinawa can feel good about their quality of life.

In northern Okinawa, I visited a range construction program led by Norman.  He and his crew are working hard to ensure our troops have quality facilities to hone their war-fighting skills. Given the rugged terrain, they are employing a number of creative ideas to achieve the desired training effect on each range.
I had a great visit with the Japan Engineer District team – they truly are providing quality projects for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their Families living and working in Japan.
Next time, I’ll tell you about my wild adventures going “north to Alaska!”

Corps Projects, Infrastructure, International and Interagency Services, Military Programs , , , , , , , ,

Our Native American Partners

March 10th, 2008
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(Originally posted March 10, 2008)

This week, I had the opportunity to speak to the National Congress of American Indians, and it got me thinking about how wonderful it is to team with them, because we can learn so much from them about how to best care for our nation’s resources.
My speech to the National Congress of American Indians

My speech to the National Congress of American Indians

 In fact, we have a terrific Corps program that builds upon both the sustainability ethic and our Environmental Operating Principles, called the Native American Environmental/Cultural Resource Training.  This course, first developed in 2002, has four goals: (1) to develop a better understanding of indigenous cultural, spiritual and environmental beliefs; (2) to share the knowledge and experience of sustainable living; (3) to develop the principles and values necessary to evaluate federal agency actions concerning sustainability and environmental concerns; and (4) to find synergy in the sharing of ideas among federal agencies in the protection and preservation of the land and natural environment.

This course is as an excellent opportunity to learn cultural sensitivity, communication, flexibility, and team-building skills. It focuses on sustainable living.  During the weeklong immersion course, participants live with one of our three tribal partners, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, the Rose Bud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, and the Seminole Indian Reservation in Florida. This training may not be what you immediately think of when you hear the word “sustainability” but it’s an excellent example of how we should embed this concept into our projects and activities just as our tribal teammates do. 
More information about the course, as well as a link to a video about the course, can be found on our Tribal Nations Web site.  

Environment/Sustainability, History, Miscellaneous "neat stuff" , , , , , , ,