Posts Tagged ‘Sustainability’

Delivering on Sustainability

February 7th, 2011

A crane operator from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District drift removal team lifts out pieces of a dilapidated pier just off the coast of San Pablo Bay, Calif.

Many people have heard me use the term “building to last” when talking about the need for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use the talents and innovation within our organization to help preserve our planet and build our Army and our Nation strong.

Because of our diverse and global mission, we have a unique opportunity to make a significant impact on the sustainability of our global resources and the security of our Nation. We’re working hard to improve efficiencies in our facilities and vehicles, increasing our use of renewable energy, and improving water use and management. We’re looking across the entire organization, at all our missions and activities, both day-to-day and those planned for the future, to see where we can build upon existing sustainability initiatives and take advantage of new opportunities and technologies.

This week we’re delivering!!

At our San Francisco District we’re working with our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to begin testing an almost 100 percent, non-petroleum fuel called B100. It can be used to power the vessels that range from debris vessels to towboats and all types in between. This week’s test is the first of several we’re running on vessels within our floating plant to see if this more sustainable option will set a new standard for how we’re working to build a more sustainable Corps.

We still have a little ways to go make sure we’re getting this right, but each journey starts with the first step!



Environment/Sustainability ,

Climate Change and USACE

January 6th, 2010

The weather here in Washington, DC is down-right cold, and we only recently saw the record snowfall of a few weeks ago melt enough that we could reasonably get around.  But what we’ve been experiencing is nothing compared to, say, Minnesota or Wisconsin. There was a news report the other day that said the low temperature in one part of Minnesota was so low (-37), that it would have to heat up 69 degrees just to not be below freezing. That’s just crazy cold. In other parts of the world, though, glaciers are melting at a record pace and drought still has people in California under water conservation orders.

 Needless to say, all this extreme weather poses an opportunity to talk about what we are doing at USACE with regard to climate change, in our role as the nation’s environmental engineers.  Gen. Casey, Army Chief of Staff, has said that we are in what he calls “an era of persistent conflict.” Part of that is because of climate change and how it can be a game-changer, creating “haves and “have-nots” around the world. 

I am a member of a United Nations committee called the “High-level Panel on Water and Disasters.”  Last year I presented our report in Istanbul, Turkey.  It was a phenomenal conference.  We came to the conclusion that we need to do much better planning – on a worldwide scale.  We have to ask ourselves – what will our response be? What might the early warnings be?  What would be the evacuation plans?  What would be those measures that an individual can take? What about local and state governments? Federal?  And I’m not just talking about the U.S. – we all need to be asking these questions, all around the world. 

Know that we are planning for all these contingencies, and more than that – we are putting the full capabilities of our Engineer Research and Development Center to work.  We are currently involved in several water studies about conservation and reuse, and we are always working on sustainable practices and technologies. In fact, at Fort Irwin in California, we are currently working on the Department of Defense’s largest solar energy project.

We also collaborated with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to write “Climate Change and Water Resources Management:  A Federal Perspective,” released last February, that assessed approaches to climate variability and change in water resources management, on which future agency policies, methods, and processes will be based.  And this past summer, we issued a new policy, “Incorporating Sea-Level Change Considerations in Civil Works Programs,” that instructs our project managers to be prepared to implement flexible planning and engineering adaptations that account for a range of possible changes.

The bottom line is – we are planning and preparing for – and doing everything we can to prevent – issues related to climate change.  It’s a very real concern that could have very real consequences all over the world, and we’re on it.

Environment/Sustainability, Research and Development , , ,

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 , , , , , , ,