Posts Tagged ‘Reconstruction’

Katrina: Five years later…and building strong!

August 26th, 2010

The Inner Harbor Navigation Canal surge barrier floodwall the Corps’ largest-ever design-build civil works project. At almost two miles long, this $1.3 billion project is being called the “Great Wall of Louisiana.”

Five years ago, communities along the Gulf Coast experienced devastating loss and damage as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  As the long road to recovery began for thousands of Americans impacted by this tragedy, the Corps was called upon to do their part to help rebuild, restore and reconstruct the Hurricane and Storm Risk Reduction System in the Greater New Orleans area. 

What was once a patchwork of levees, floodwalls and pumps before the hurricanes is becoming a true System that will provide 100-year level perimeter protection against hurricane storm surge to greater New Orleans. Today, the area already has the best perimeter defense in its history, and work continues at a record pace. We are driving hard to have in place a system that can defend against a 100-year storm by June 2011. 

We are working towards this goal by using the best science, technology and talent available, leveraging the knowledge and capability of our partners in industry, architect-engineer firms, members of academia and international counterparts.  Together, we are developing and applying state-of-the-practice engineering solutions to the Hurricane and Storm Risk Reduction System and across coastal Louisiana. 

With this scientific expertise, we were able to design and have nearly completed construction on the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Barrier, the Corps’ largest-ever design-build civil works project. At almost two miles long, this $1.3 billion project is being called the “Great Wall of Louisiana,” and it is one of the key components in the Hurricane and Storm Risk Reduction System’s ability to defend against the effects of a 100-year storm.  Another key component of the system is the nearly $1 billion West Closure Complex, a gated surge barrier containing the largest drainage pump station in the world – now at 40% complete after only one year of construction. 

Other major work accomplished since Katrina includes: 

•     completion of all pump station repairs 

•     completion of one-third of pump station storm proofing projects 

•     raising the height of more than 15 miles of levees and 2.5 miles of floodwalls throughout the West Bank 

An unprecedented number of construction contracts has been awarded for this mission (more than 270), and more than $9 billion obligated.  What’s even more exciting is that about $2.3 billion has been awarded directly to Small and Disadvantaged Businesses, and more than 60% of these awards have gone to Louisiana-based businesses. 

We are committed to providing a system that will defend against the effects of a 100-year storm by June 2011.  But we aren’t done.  Work will continue beyond 2011 to complete other features of the system.  We will continue to use all available resources and Corps expertise across the Nation to deliver this essential system to the citizens of Greater New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana, and together with our state, local and federal partners, we will get ‘er done! 




Civil Works, Gulf Coast Recovery, Levees , ,

Rebuilding Trust in New Orleans

April 30th, 2008

I just returned from a visit to New Orleans, seeing some of the reconstruction progress as I toured the area with the Emir of Qatar, who generously donated a lot of money to the city to help with the rebuilding. The trip reminded me of a comment we received in a recent blog.

Ray Broussard of New Orleans posted the following comment:

“Public trust and faith in the Corps cannot even be earned again – not in the short term anyway. As before, the Corps will regain public trust very slowly over time as we slowly forget, forgive and die off, unless… structures fail again when tested by storms.”

I’m certain that Mr. Broussard’s comments reflect the feelings of many of his fellow citizens, and I appreciate his candor. I am genuinely empathetic for what the people of the greater New Orleans area have been through. I want you to know that rebuilding your trust is incredibly important to me, and enabling Gulf Coast recovery is our #1 domestic priority.

The progress I see each time I visit is really remarkable. The region has a better hurricane and storm damage reduction system in place than ever before in its history – and it will continue to get better.

But don’t just take my word for it! I encourage you to get out and see for yourselves the gates, the pumps, and all of the work designed to reduce your risk. And remember – that’s “reduce risk,” not “guarantee safety.” It’s incredibly important that everyone remember there is no way to eliminate risk altogether.

We know that we lost the trust and confidence of many citizens of southeast Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and we fully understand that regaining their trust and confidence will not be the result of anything that we might say, but through the quality of the work we, and our many partners, are doing.  Deeds, not words.

Civil Works, Corps Projects, Gulf Coast Recovery, Levees , , , ,

Iraq Reconstruction

February 13th, 2008
(Originally Posted Feb 13, 2008) 
When I first took command, I sat down with all of my senior leaders and developed the priorities and tenets that will drive this organization during my tenure. One of the tenets was to have transparent communication, and thanks to technology, that’s easier than I thought!  So I’d like to dedicate my first posting to one of our Corps priorities – supporting the Global War on Terror.
A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Corps offices in Iraq and was able to tour a few of the projects our dedicated servicemembers, Civilians and contractors are working so hard on. I was there to mark the Gulf Region Division’s (GRD) 4th anniversary in Iraq, and it was awe inspiring to reflect on how much this organization has done for Iraq and its people. With more than 800 Civilian and military personnel currently deployed to the region, we have completed more than 4,300 projects along side some 40,000 Iraqis. When talking with our teammates at GRD, I found that their experiences in Iraq have given them a new and positive perspective on life. I am humbled by their sacrifices.
We had big plans for the trip with lots of projects to see, but unfortunately, the weather had other things in mind, so we had to pass on some of our original scheduled site visits. But in addition to our time in Baghad at GRD, I was able to visit Balad Air Base and As Sulaymaniyah.
One project I’d like to talk about is the renovation of Cham Chamal Prison in As Sulaymaniyah, in northeast Iraq. The facility was built years ago under Saddam Hussein, who used it as a prison to lock away thousands of Kurds; still a very sensitive subject for the Kurdish people in the region. Today, a Kurdish contractor is doing the renovations and upgrades, and work is well under way and on schedule, to make it into a high security confinement facility that the government of Iraq can use for years to come.
But one thing you just don’t see much of in the mainstream media, is the quality of life improvements I was able to see first hand: busy streets, markets overflowing with fruits and vegetables, and people going about their daily routines – all very positive signs of progress for that region.
Throughout Iraq, there is major progress to report. The country has more capacity to generate power today than during the Saddam Regime, and we’re spreading it more equitably across the country. Our efforts have almost doubled Iraq’s ability to generate power. There are families in Anbar Province that have never had power before – and now they do! Essential services, like hospitals, water sewage pump stations and fire stations have power 24 hours a day. There’s a 3 tiered approach to distribution, which is that first, essential services get power, then what remains is filtered to the government buildings, and then to the residents and private businesses, so that’s why some people, in Baghdad for example, who used to get power all the time, are experiencing less than before – but throughout the country it is a major improvement.
Add to that the fact that we are chasing an ever-changing goal – demand has increased more than 70 percent since 2004 because Iraqis are purchasing more energy-intensive products such as air conditioners, refrigerators, computers and other electronics. This is a good thing! It means the economy is growing stronger.
I was really disappointed that we were unable to visit the Basrah Children’s Hospital, which was one of the stops nixed for weather issues. But, the progress there is really promising – it’s now close to 80% complete. Along with Project HOPE, we are committed to complete the hospital project on schedule, and I am going to try again next time to be able to see it in person.
Looking ahead to the future, we remain committed to integrating Iraqi women and women-owned businesses as a component of building the workforce and infrastructure as Iraq gets closer to managing all of these services on its own.
In my view, winning in Iraq and Afghanistan takes more than military efforts alone. The work our leaders and teammates are doing on the infrastructure, in direct coordination with the Iraqi ministries, is building capacity and strengthening their own capabilities. I am extremely proud of the men and women of the Corps, who have a key role in this fight.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you. I look forward to the dialog!
Best, Van

Contingency Operations, Corps Projects, Infrastructure, International and Interagency Services, Iraq, Military Programs , , , , , , , , , , , , ,