Page 1

SPECIAL EDITION

U.S. ARMY CORPS OF

FREE

ENGINEERS

2019 EDITION

HIGH-TECH SOLUTIONS Innovations help change the game BRIGHT FUTURES STEM exposes youth to careers HYDROPOWER PROJECTS Creating electricity, reducing pollution

Teamwork


2

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

3

CONTENTS

2019 S PECI A L E D ITI O N

ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS

TRIBAL NATION COORDINATION Liaisons work to create successful partnerships

USACE OMAHA DISTRICT

USACE Omaha District members attend a September 2007 ribbon cutting in Eagle Butte, S.D., after providing contracting and technical assistance for a new water intake system to support the needs of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

FEATURES

36

USACE MISSISSIPPI DISTRICT

42

UPPING THEIR GAME As extreme weather strains resources, response teams get creative

USACE SOUTHWESTERN DIVISION/ FORT WORTH DISTRICT

DIGITAL DYNAMOS Cutting-edge technologies are changing the game


4

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

CONTENTS 74

62 This is a product of

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Jeanette Barrett-Stokes

Salt marsh harvest mouse JUDY IRVING

jbstokes@usatoday.com

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Jerald Council jcouncil@usatoday.com

MANAGING EDITOR Michelle Washington

EDUCATION

24

PATHWAYS TO SUCCESS Recent graduates use federal programs to launch promising careers

OUTREACH

32 Fort Rousseau, Alaska USACE ALASKA DISTRICT

UP FRONT

6

LEADERSHIP

8

56 62

PHOTO BY LANCE CPL. BETZABETH Y. GALVAN/USMC

12

WONDERFUL WETLANDS San Francisco Bay shoreline project restores habitat, prevents flooding

TRASH TO TREASURE

70

COLD HARD FACTS

74

CLEANUP CREW

Dredged Charleston Harbor material turned into reefs

ISSUE EDITOR Debbie Williams EDITORS Amy Sinatra Ayres Tracy Scott Forson Harry Lister Sara Schwartz ISSUE DESIGNER Lisa M. Zilka DESIGNERS Hayleigh Corkey Amira Martin Debra Moore Gina Toole Saunders CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Matt Alderton, Brian Barth, Mary Helen Berg, Scott Berman, Patricia Kime, Tamara Lytle, Robin Roenker, Adam Stone

ADVERTISING VP, ADVERTISING Patrick Burke | (703) 854-5914 pburke@usatoday.com

ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Vanessa Salvo | (703) 854-6499 vsalvo@usatoday.com

FINANCE BILLING COORDINATOR Julie Marco

HIGH EXPECTATIONS Brig. Gen. Diana Holland guides division through tumultuous times

CAREERS

16

McClellan-Kerr system moves goods, creates energy and provides recreation

66

ON THE COVER USACE collaborated on a project to construct a 3D-printed concrete bridge at Camp Pendleton in California.

POWER UP

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

THE WAY AHEAD Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite leads the Corps’ innovation to meet current and future missions

Corps employees share their passion for science and tech at local events

HYDROPOWER

FACTS AND FIGURES Learn how the Corps engineers solutions for our nation’s toughest challenges

STEM AMBASSADORS

mjwashington@usatoday.com

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE Col. Jason Kelly and Dr. Jane McKee Smith are role models for the next generation

Research teams monitor the changing arctic environment

Project makes World War II defense site safe for hikers, wildlife

HISTORY

ISSN#0734-7456 A USA TODAY Network publication, Gannett Co. Inc USA TODAY, its logo and associated graphics are the trademarks of Gannett Co. Inc. or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Copyright 2018, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. Editorial and publication headquarters are at 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22108, and at (703) 854-3400. For accuracy questions, call or send an e-mail to accuracy@usatoday.com.

PRINTED IN THE USA

18

COOL CAREERS Diverse professionals are finding their dream jobs in the Corps

78

PICTURE PERFECT Poster showcases USACE employees, projects and artifacts

All prices and availability are subject to change.


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

5


6

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

UP FRONT

Building Strong Get to know the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

E

STABLISHED JUNE 16, 1775, the U.S. Army Corps

of Engineers (USACE) began as a group of professional craftsmen who surveyed canals and railroad routes and served as explorers and map makers. Corps members have been instrumental in the creation of our iconic national landscape. They supervised the expansion of the U.S. Capitol building and managed the construction of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Korean Veterans Memorial, Library of Congress and other historic structures. Today’s USACE is dedicated and diversified, providing engineering expertise, reducing disaster risk and helping transport goods and services to grow the economy. Here are some noteworthy facts and figures about the organization:

GETTY IMAGES


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

7

UP FRONT

D.C. STRONG

PEOPLE STRONG Employees include:

Employees are not just engineers:

Chemists

94

Archaeologists

130

Computer scientists

34,000 civilian employees

160

Geologists

280

Architects

800

Led the construction of the Pentagon, which was built in a mere

340 2,800

Natural resources managers

military personnel

INFRASTRUCTURE STRONG uProtects $3 trillion in national infrastructure along coasts

16 months

ENVIRONMENT STRONG

RECREATION STRONG

uManages dams in 44 states

Manages 12 million acres of land and water (the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined) in 43 states

uProvides U.S. with 6.9 billion gallons of water a day

New Hampshire Vermont

RESEARCH STRONG Research and development facilities employ more than 2,000 highly skilled professionals World-class facilities include:

By 2025, expects to remove the equivalent of 25,000 cars from the road through sustainability efforts

Maintains more than

7.8K miles of trails and more than

u1,800-foot coastal research pier uWorld’s most powerful centrifuge

93K

uEndangered species labs

campsites

POWER STRONG

NAVIGATION STRONG

Largest renewable energy producer and the 5th largest electric supplier in the U.S.

Almost everything Americans use moves through waterways that are maintained by the Corps

Corps hydroelectric plants save

50

million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per year

SOURCE: U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS

98%

of overseas trade moves through Corps projects

DEFENSE STRONG uManages more than 25 million acres of property assets for the U.S. Army uSince 2001, has deployed 11,000 volunteer civilians to Iraq and Afghanistan to support contingency operations uCompleted more than $15 billion in construction projects in Iraq and on track to complete $10.1 billion in Afghanistan GETTY IMAGES


8

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

LEADERSHIP

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, center, attends a briefing in October at USACE headquarters about then-Tropical Storm Michael. EVAN DYSON

The Way Ahead USACE innovates to meet current, future challenges By Scott Berman

L

T. GEN. TODD SEMONITE, chief of engineers and commanding

general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), is focused on critical missions and responsibilities at hand and in the future. During the past year, the Corps has worked with partners in the wake of dozens of natural disasters, all in addition to other varied activities around the globe and nationwide, such as constructing military facilities and updating crucial infrastructure. Semonite recently shared insights with USA TODAY about the pressing matters facing the agency now and in the months and years ahead.

What do you want people to know about the Corps’ ongoing work responding to recent natural disasters and carrying out its other missions? SEMONITE: 2018 was a big year for our disaster response mission. During the last year, USACE responded to 48 natural disasters, including hurricanes, floods, mudslides and tornadoes. More than 4,500 USACE personnel from all nine divisions and 43 districts stepped up to deliver life-saving engineering expertise to millions of citizens throughout our nation. USACE teammates have worked with our partners to aid disaster survivors — delivering public works and engineering expertise. They have truly stepped up and answered the call to serve. Often, it is in the aftermath of disasters that the value of engineering and robust public infrastructure becomes quite clear. During 2019, flooding across the central and northwestern parts of the country had us moving out again. This time we deployed about 225 people to the affected areas, all with the assistance of an additional 435 men and women at headquarters and various district offices

Q

who provided crucial support to those deployed, engaging and coordinating with local, state and federal partners. While meeting the demands of disaster response and recovery, we must also forge ahead with our ongoing missions and responsibilities. What has been most gratifying about your past year and why? The best part is the way USACE steps up to the plate during times of disaster. We have people who deploy to hurricane areas so they can get to work as soon as the storm is over. We have people volunteering to go to Iraq and Afghanistan — places most people don’t want to go. Many Americans recognize us for our work in military construction, risk reduction and assistance in disaster recovery operations. However, we also have significant global commitments. USACE operates in more than 100 countries, providing agile, expeditionary engineering and construction capabilities. It’s also important to build and sustain relationships with our stakeholders and partners. USACE is a talented and passionate CONTI NUED


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

9


10

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

LEADERSHIP

ANDREW KORNACKI

Semonite toured the Intermediate Staging Base on Fort Buchanan in Puerto Rico in February 2018 to get an update on the progress of USACE’s temporary power mission.

organization of people delivering engineering solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges. Where do you see the Corps in terms of its capabilities and appropriation levels in three to four years? Where do you want and believe it should be? Much of our nation’s infrastructure remains well beyond its design life, yet the requirements have never been greater. Today, we have more than $98 billion in construction requirements, representing the federal share on a multitude of projects. To be most effective at delivering the nation’s infrastructure needs, USACE must be more innovative and consider

new ways to finance and incentivize investments in water resources infrastructure. With our partners and stakeholders, we need to remove barriers to the development and improvement of our critical public infrastructure. We will need to engage all of our stakeholders in ongoing dialogue to communicate shortfalls and requirements in order to be successful. USACE has been working with the administration on this issue and was instrumental in developing 20 legislative proposals that are part of the president’s infrastructure initiative. USACE’s Civil Works program is embracing the opportunity provided through the initiative to improve our infrastructure and to

modernize the agency, including an incentives (grants) program to encourage increased state, local and private investments. It could transform the way water resources infrastructure is designed, built and maintained. Given all of the challenges and opportunities, especially in terms of innovating, what do you see as the way forward? I am very proud of the work that USACE accomplishes, but I am equally aware that the organization can improve. Revolutionizing the way USACE does business is my No. 1 priority. “Revolutionize” does not imply we are less than “world class.” It does, however,

demand that we anticipate and respond to requirements and externalities, like all world-class organizations. We will seize upon the opportunities of our current mission set to dramatically and fundamentally change how we do business and to boost overall, long-term delivery potential. We will emerge with a world-class delivery mindset: a culture of excellence and consistent behaviors that achieve exceptional results in ways that maintain our nation’s trust. For more than 243 years, USACE has adapted to meet the challenges of the day, and today is no exception. Our current efforts simply represent the next chapter in this remarkable journey.


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

11


12

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

LEADERSHIP

Brig. Gen. Diana Holland visited the Panama Canal last year. She commands the South Atlantic Division, which conducts international missions in Central and South America. 1ST LT. JOSHUA GONZALEZ/USACE

Tough Tasks, High Expectations Brig. Gen. Diana Holland guides division through tumultuous times By Scott Berman

B

RIG. GEN. DIANA HOLLAND, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division, is leading in a time of formidable challenges. The division, which encompasses eight states grouped within five districts as well

as international missions in the Caribbean and Central and South America, is forging ahead on many fronts. In addition to applying lessons learned from their response to the daunting 2017 and 2018 hurricane seasons, Holland and her team are working on diverse projects that include environmental restoration, rebuilding an Air Force base, constructing the U.S.

military’s training center for electronic warfare and developing infrastructure that is resilient in the face of future storms. She recently shared insights with USA TODAY about the tasks at hand and the expectations that come with her wideranging responsibilities: CONTI NUED


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

13


14

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

LEADERSHIP What is the most pressing activity for the division right now, and what’s next? HOLLAND: Overall, the most pressing thing that we’re all focused on right now is managing the historic levels of federal funding that’s coming to our region, both from supplemental and normal appropriations from the U.S. Congress. We executed expenditures in support of projects totaling more than $5.8 billion in 2018, which was the highest funding level at least since 2011. And given all the challenges at hand, we expect 2019 and 2020 to be at even higher levels, as contract awards and construction projects happen. Money brings with it great expectations and a lot of responsibility. It’s about receiving all of this funding with all of the direction that we’ve gotten from Congress, plus the expectation that we are going to accomplish our tasks really, really fast. That’s the environment that we’re in today. We have numerous ongoing harbor deepening projects; we are continuing work on the Everglades Restoration in Florida; we are beginning the contract award process for the construction of the Army Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon, Georgia; there is repair work on the regional coastlines, which have been damaged by recent storms; and we are probably going to have a major role in the reconstruction of (Florida’s) Tyndall Air Force Base, which was hit by Hurricane Michael in 2018. That’s just some examples of all the things we are working on. So we must continue to resource appropriately, ensure that all of our policies are understandable and meet extra expectations that we are going to do our tasks quickly.

Q

Holland, aboard a specialized dredging vessel, is briefed on operations near Sneads Fairy, N.C. MAJ. DARRELL MELROSE/USACE

How would you characterize the recovery in Puerto Rico at this point? It continues. In terms of the response phase, there is some remaining logistics work. For example, some materials, ordered with long lead times to repair the power grid, are still coming in. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has continued to rely on us logistically to receive, account for and transport materials, but by and large we’re done with those. Now in the recovery phase, we are helping FEMA on ways to plan for building resilient infrastructure in Puerto Rico.

Additionally, there are our normal responsibilities in Puerto Rico, such as a number of flood risk management projects authorized many years ago, which are now getting funding. There will be a big workload in Puerto Rico in the next four to six years as we are finally able to finish those projects, and that’s exciting. What was most striking about this past year at the division? It was striking that we would have two more hurricanes making landfall in our region in 2018 — Florence and Michael — in the wake of Irma, Maria and Nate. That makes five in our region since I’ve been in this position. Each hurricane was so different. Each state and territory handled it so differently, and the requirements for us played out differently. So the team had to be so flexible and adaptable to answer the requirements of each storm. In 2018, after everything we had been through in 2017, we were in such a better position to respond. We were making decisions about moving people and things very quickly. It was just amazing how adaptable the Corps was through all of that. The attitude was ‘let’s go for it, and we can adjust.’ It was so striking to see how Corps personnel are so passionate and dedicated to their mission. What do you see as the key opportunities and areas for the division to leverage what it does well, and to improve where there are challenges? It’s about implementing ways to help us move through our processes faster. Given everything the region and nation have faced with those storms, these are not normal times, so it’s important to reach out and partner internally within our division, such as the Mobile (Ala.) and Jacksonville (Fla.) districts, or other districts to work together in new ways. It’s also about partnering, as we have done and are doing, with fellow divisions — the Mississippi Valley, the Great Lakes and Ohio River and North Atlantic Divisions — to achieve our missions in Puerto Rico. Challenges, and our mission, go on, and the professionals here are achieving our missions. They don’t ask for attention. At the end of the day they want to go home and know that they’ve helped someone. That’s an important story to tell.


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

15


16

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

CAREERS

Leading by Example Col. Jason Kelly, Dr. Jane McKee Smith inspire next generation of USACE achievers By Matt Alderton

T

HE U.S. ARMY CORPS of Engineers is revered for its engineering expertise. Those who know it best,

however, know that USACE builds more than bridges, levees, dams and dikes. It also successfully builds future leaders whose achievements leave indelible marks on the Corps and the communities it serves. Of course, building leaders requires a different tool set than engineering infrastructure. Instead of calipers and cranes, it requires mentors and mavens — people like Col. Jason Kelly and Dr. Jane McKee Smith, whose distinguished careers have given them a platform to shape a new generation of thinkers and builders who promise to channel their skills and service toward solving America’s most pressing engineering challenges.

It’s often said that strong leaders are “driven” to succeed. In the case of Col. Jason Kelly, that’s true in more ways than one. That’s because Kelly was born and raised in Flint, Mich. — known as “Vehicle City” because of its deep transportation-industry roots.

R. CHRIS JONES/USACE EASTERN REGION

COL. JASON KELLY: DRIVEN TO SERVE

“When I was in middle and high school, General Motors had a collaborative program with the Flint public school system where inner-city kids were exposed to the science that underpinned the Vehicle City,” said Kelly, who in 2018 became commander of USACE’s Transatlantic Afghanistan District, which supports U.S. efforts to build infrastructure in Afghanistan. “That program helped me see that you could make a living as an engineer.” Kelly subsequently studied mathematics at U.S. Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1994, commencing his Army career as an engineer officer. After more than 20 years embedded with troops as a combat engineer — most recently as commander of the 20th Engineer Battalion at Fort Hood, Texas — he was selected to command the USACE Norfolk District in Virginia from July 2015 through June 2018. During his three-year tenure, he managed construction projects at Arlington National Cemetery, directed research projects on sea-level rise and flooding, and oversaw channel-deepening work in Norfolk Harbor.

Most importantly, he promoted science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to Virginia youth. “I got into STEM because of what I experienced as a child as a result of the partnership between General Motors and Flint public schools,” Kelly said. “During my time at Norfolk, I wanted the district to play for others the role that General Motors played for me all those years ago in Flint.” Among the groups that USACE engaged during Kelly’s tenure were secondary schools, historically black colleges and universities and even Girl Scout troops. “We opened the district’s doors to many folks who may not have known what is possible with a STEM degree,” said Kelly, whose outreach in Norfolk earned him the 2019 Career Achievement Black Engineer of the Year Award, presented by the publisher of U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine. “Anywhere we could go to spread the gospel of STEM in the Army Corps of Engineers, we went.” Eventually, he hopes his message will yield positive outcomes not only for the young people who heard it, but also for the country on behalf of which he delivered it. “The more we expose, the more we excite, the more we encourage,” he said, “the easier it will be for us to acquire young talent and the better our chance of continuing to deliver for the nation.”


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

17

CAREERS

OSCAR REIHSMANN

DR. JANE MCKEE SMITH: MAKING WAVES

Dr. Jane McKee Smith spent most of her youth in Bloomington, Minn. — more than 1,000 miles from the nearest coast. Coastal engineering seemed an unlikely career path. “I was not looking for a career in coastal engineering,” said Smith, a senior research scientist at the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, Miss. “It just kind of fell in my lap.” Smith spent her childhood visiting USACEoperated dams and lakes with her father, an engineering enthusiast whose contagious interests convinced her that she wanted to be a structural engineer. From there, it was only a short leap to coastal engineering, which she made with the help of a beloved professor who introduced her to hydrology and hydraulics when she was an undergraduate at South Dakota State University. “Hydraulics, I found, wasn’t as ‘cookbook-y’ as some other types of engineering,” she said. “It’s much less structured and a bit more researchdriven. I found it really intriguing.” So much so that she has spent the last 36 years executing coastal engineering projects at the ERDC, where her specialty is coastal hydrodynamics — the study of ocean waves. “One of the biggest challenges I had was postHurricane Katrina,” Smith said. “Our job was

evaluating the waves and the water level of the storm surge that occurred; we provided all the information that was used to determine what happened during the storm and to help design a new coastal protection system in New Orleans and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.” That work is one of many reasons her peers recently elected Smith to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering (NAE), a nonprofit providing engineering leadership in service to the nation. “The projects we work on strengthen national security, invigorate the economy and help reduce the risk from natural disasters,” Smith said. “We really are serving the nation.” Smith — the first woman from USACE to receive the honor — plans to use her NAE membership as a platform for evangelizing engineering excellence both inside and outside the Corps. “(NAE membership) will help me get the ERDC’s and the Corps’ message out to a broader audience so we can attract A-list talent,” she said. “Also, I hope it will be motivational for folks already working in the Corps; the National Academy of Engineering typically is thought of as being for academics, so I think it’s beneficial for the next generation of engineers to see that kind of recognition bestowed on folks who do the work we do.”

USACE

Smith, at left, taking field measurements in Duck, N.C., in 1990 and teaching elementary school students about wave activity in 2014. USACE


18

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

CAREERS

Rick Benoit, diver

JOHN BULL

Cool Careers These professionals found their dream jobs in the Corps

By Matt Alderton

T

HE U.S. ARMY CORPS of

Engineers designs, builds and maintains critical public infrastructure. But there’s a lot more to the Corps than its name suggests. For one, it doesn’t just execute projects in the United States; rather, it has customers in more than 130

countries around the world. Nor is its workforce limited to soldiers; the majority of its 37,000 employees are actually civilians. And finally, not all of those employees are engineers; in fact, many of them have occupations that have nothing to do with engineering at all. Here, for example, are four individuals whose jobs within the Corps are as unexpected as they are exciting:


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

19


20

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

CAREERS

KELLY ELDRIDGE, ARCHAEOLOGIST ALASKA DISTRICT

SHAZLI MAW

RICK BENOIT, DIVER NORTH ATLANTIC DIVISION Some people wear a suit and tie to work. Rick Benoit wears a wetsuit — the standard uniform when working in an underwater office, which he often does as an emergency management special-ist and dive program manager within the USACE North Atlantic Division’s Regional Readiness and Contingency Operation Branch at Fort Hamilton, N.Y. Benoit learned to scuba dive while he was in the U.S. Navy, after which he studied journalism at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass. Although he began his career as a journalist in the 1980s, he later traded words for water when he became a diving instructor for the state of Maine, which employed him to teach safe diving to commercial fishermen. That experience ultimately led him to USACE, where he and other divers perform underwater inspections of Army-owned waterfront facilities and Corps-

managed assets including dams, bridges, piers and wharves. “We do underwater inspections everywhere from the Marshall Islands, where it’s 80 degrees and sunny, to places like the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, where we’re working in the middle of a polar vortex,” explained Benoit, who said divers may also operate underwater robots that assist with searches and recoveries of sunken ships, conduct in-water environmental and biological surveys and teach diving to engineers and scientists. “Every day I’ve come to work at the Corps has been something different,” continued Benoit, who said the highlight of his career so far took place in 2016 and 2017, when he spent 10 months on a floating barge overseeing dive safety for a multinational team of partners that was repairing and rehabilitating the Mosul Dam in Iraq. “There’s always another mission and a new challenge.”

Alaska is a living, breathing time capsule. As an archaeologist for the USACE Alaska District, it’s Kelly Eldridge’s job to uncover it, then protect and preserve its contents. “Any time there’s a federal undertaking, section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires the federal government to make sure it does not destroy or adversely impact any significant cultural resources,” said Eldridge, who is based in Anchorage. “My job is to identify historic properties, evaluate them, assess the effects that federal undertakings will have on them, and, if there’s going to be adverse effects, mitigate them.” These “federal undertakings” include civil works, environmental cleanup and military construction projects, while “cultural resources” encompass historic sites and artifacts, such as those related to Russian and American colonization, the Alaska Gold Rush, the Aleutian Campaign of World War II, the Cold War or any of Alaska’s 229 federally recognized native tribes.

It’s an ideal job for someone who’s unquenchably curious about other communities and cultures — which Eldridge is. She has been since at least the sixth grade, when a geography assignment ignited an interest in anthropology. “I did a report on Papua New Guinea, which has more than 800 indigenous languages and an amazing amount of cultural variability. That was the first time I’d ever thought about cultures outside of those I’d been raised with,” said Eldridge, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology, and is currently working on her Ph.D. “Now I get to travel around the state and learn about the history of tribal people who have been living in Alaska for thousands of years. How cool is that?” Admittedly, pretty cool — especially when you consider that her office often is an inflatable boat, all-terrain vehicle, turboprop or helicopter. “I can’t tell you how many mountains and cliffs I’ve hiked up for this job,” Eldridge laughed.

USACE ALASKA DISTRICT


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

21


22

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

CAREERS

HANS HONERLAH, RADIOLOGICAL HEALTH PHYSICIST BALTIMORE DISTRICT

USACE

DENA DICKERSON, RESEARCH BIOLOGIST U.S. ARMY ENGINEER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT CENTER It’s difficult to imagine someone loving their co-workers more than Dena Dickerson loves hers. That’s because her colleagues consist not only of fellow humans — scientists and engineers, mostly — but also various animal species, including sea turtles, sturgeon, shark, manatees, whales, dolphins, crocodiles, snakes and birds, to name a few. “I was fascinated with animals and nature from a very early age,” said Dickerson, a research biologist in the Environmental Laboratory of the Engineer Research & Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss. “Mother figured out that an easy and cheap babysitter would be to take me to the (zoo) for me to watch the animals and she could read a book. Even as a small toddler, I could happily watch the animals for hours.” These days, Dickerson doesn’t just watch animals. Rather, she protects them: It’s her job to develop environmentally friendly solutions that allow civil works projects to proceed in ways that

preserve threatened and endangered species. For example, she works with engineers to develop protocols for when and how shipping canals should be dredged to prevent harming sea turtles that live and feed there. Sometimes, she has the opposite objective: developing solutions to eradicate invasive or nuisance species. For example, she used her skills as a certified animal trainer and behavior consultant to develop a program that uses trained border collies to chase nuisance birds like seagulls, pelicans and geese away from USACE locks and dams. For Dickerson — who has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in biology and math — every day is an opportunity to do what she loves while making a difference in the world of conservation. “I feel that through my job I may have been able to make a small difference in protecting some species of animals and the environment,” she said.

When you consider how many comic books feature radiationinduced superheroes — SpiderMan, the Hulk and Daredevil, to name a few — it’s a wonder that Hans Honerlah doesn’t have superpowers himself. Fortunately, he doesn’t need them; he protects people and the environment every day just by doing his job. That’s because Honerlah is a radiological health physicist in the USACE Baltimore District. There, he provides radiological expertise and oversight to miscellaneous Corps projects that carry radiological risks or concerns, including projects to decommission nuclear reactors, clean up radioactive waste and provide disaster response in areas where there are radiological assets. For example, he has worked on Department of Energy sites that were contaminated during the making of the first atomic bombs,

supported Army activities associated with depleted uranium and assisted the Navy with evaluating assets that were contaminated during the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. On those and similar projects, his duties include navigating regulatory issues, assessing radiation in the environment and developing solutions that keep people and the environment safe in the presence of radiation. “When radiological issues are identified on project sites, many people’s first reaction is fear,” explained Honerlah, an Air Force veteran who joined USACE in 1995 after earning a bachelor’s degree in health professions. At that time, he was one of only three health physicists in the Corps. Now, he’s one of 15. “My biggest challenge typically is teaching people to understand radiation, not just fear it.”

CHRISTOPHER AUGSBURGER


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

23


24

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

EDUCATION

Pathways to Success Federal programs launch promising careers

MEMPHIS, TENN., DISTRICT

ASHLEY EVANS, CIVIL ENGINEER

GETTY IMAGES; MADISON YEN

By Matt Alderton

T

HE U.S. WORKFORCE IS facing a

demographic disaster: By 2030, one-fifth of the total population will have reached retirement age, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which reports that when that time comes, the nation will have more senior citizens than children for the first time in history. In the federal government, where 45 percent of employees are age 50 or

older, that portends a mass exodus of not only talent, but also institutional knowledge. Fortunately, the feds saw this coming. In 2010, then-President Barack Obama issued an executive order establishing three Pathways Programs that allow government agencies to circumvent traditional competitive hiring practices by limiting the applicant pool for select jobs to students and recent graduates. There’s the Internship Program, which offers paid intern-

ships to current students; the Recent Graduates Program, which provides entry-level employment to recent college graduates; and the Presidential Management Fellows Program for recent graduates of advanced-degree programs. At USACE, Pathways gives participants expert-level technical skills as well as a general understanding of how USACE operates. These four rising stars share how their Pathways experiences opened doors to promising careers:

Like so many in her profession, Ashley Evans first demonstrated an aptitude for engineering as a child playing with blocks. “I had these gallon-sized containers full of Legos that I loved using to build and create things,” said Evans, 28, whose childhood instincts were reaffirmed by a high school career assessment. “I didn’t really know what engineering was,” Evans continued. “But when I took the ACT, for the heck of it I also took a career test that they offered. Nine out of my top 10 careers came back as different types of engineering, so I decided I should look into it.” Evans studied civil engineering at the University of Memphis, where a class she took sparked an interest in hydrology and hydraulics. “I knew USACE did a lot of hydrology and hydraulics work, so when I saw them at a College of Engineering career fair, I stopped to chat with them,” said Evans, who upon graduating applied for an entry-level position in the Hydraulics and Hydrology Branch

of the USACE Memphis District. When she was hired in December 2016, she joined the Recent Graduates Program as a Department of the Army (DA) intern, commencing a two-year contract that turned into a permanent position in December 2018. “I feel like I received a lot more support than I would have if I’d gotten a job in the private sector,” explained Evans, who spent her DA internship working with an assigned mentor, attending specialized training and learning tradecraft from senior engineers. “Engineering school is a lot of theory; this was a great way to learn how to apply that theory. It was a really good transition from college to the real world.”


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

25


26

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

EDUCATION

“Because of the two years I spent in St. Paul, I was able to arrive in Anchorage with all the knowledge I needed to do the job.”

ALASKA DISTRICT

PHOTOS BY EMILY CHAVOLLO

KENDRA HOLMAN, BIOLOGIST Kendra Holman was a nontraditional student looking for a nontraditional internship. That’s how she came across the Pathways Programs. “I’m married with four kids and spent 12 years in the Navy before going to college,” said Holman, 35, who studied wildlife resources and rangeland ecology and management at the University of Idaho. “One of the requirements for graduating was having some kind of internship. I had a 3-year-old daughter, so it had to be something that paid. That’s when the Veterans Assistance Office at my college told me about the Pathways Programs.” Holman grew up in the mountains of northern Idaho, where she developed a passion for nature. That’s what inspired her field of study — and what guided her search for Pathways internships, of which she had several. As an undergraduate, for example, she secured summer internships with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Because neither agency felt like the right fit, she took another Pathways position when she graduated, this time with USACE in its Recent Graduates Program. During her two-year internship in the USACE St. Paul, Minn., District, she traveled to numerous field offices, experiencing various branches and projects. “That gave me the opportunity to see all the different areas of the Corps in which I qualified to work, and to decide if I wanted to work in them permanently,” said Holman, who applied for and received a permanent position in the USACE Alaska District, where she recently began working as a regulatory project manager overseeing biological evaluations of proposed wetlands projects. “Because of the two years I spent in St. Paul, I was able to arrive in Anchorage with all the knowledge I needed to do the job.”


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

27

• Crane & Maintenance Inspections • Engineered Solutions • Repairs & Parts • Specific Retrofits/Upgrades • Troubleshooting • PLC System Upgrades • Installation & Commissioning • Hydraulic System Data Logging Unique Solutions required for our customers to perform their work Mobile Crane Inspector Certified# 16-3673

414.232.0412

mark.connor@gts-mc.com

gts-mc.com


28

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

EDUCATION

“I got to work on some really cool stuff that is the envy of civil engineers everywhere, and I got to do it because of the Recent Graduates Program.” LOUISVILLE, KY., DISTRICT

JACK SWEENEY/USACE; KATIE NEWTON/USACE

RYAN LAWRENCE, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER It’s said that mothers know best. And according to Ryan Lawrence, his mother knew from the start that he’d be an engineer. Lawrence wanted to be a police officer, then a businessman, but finally fulfilled his mother’s prophecy as a high school senior when he participated in a building project during a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. “I really enjoyed my experience down there and ... realized that engineering fit my interests a lot better than business,” said Lawrence, 26. “At that point, what people had been telling me my whole life finally clicked.” Lawrence earned a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Louisville, where he also received a master’s degree. While he was pursuing the latter, he inquired about positions at the USACE Louisville District. “At that point I was working in a management-type position, and I wanted to try doing design. I could see that the Corps offered that,” explained Lawrence, who joined USACE as an engineering co-op while finishing his master’s degree, then transitioned into the Recent Graduates Program once he completed it. A year later he was offered a full-time position. “For me, the biggest benefit (of the Recent Graduates Program) was mentorship and training,” continued Lawrence, who trained under a senior engineer; attended a weeklong training course on hydraulic steel structures, which he continues to leverage in his current position; and created with his supervisor an Individual Development Plan that served as a road map for his future in the Corps. He even got to work on his district’s signature project: the $3.1 billion Olmsted Locks and Dam Project in Olmsted, Ill. “I got to work on some really cool stuff that is the envy of civil engineers everywhere, and I got to do it because of the Recent Graduates Program.”


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

29


30

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

EDUCATION

“The Pathways Program was an amazing experience. Doing it was the best thing I’ve ever done because now I have my dream job.” LOUISVILLE, KY., DISTRICT

PHOTOS BY KIM BAKER/USACE

JESSICA ZIMMER, NATURAL RESOURCES SPECIALIST Every day feels like Sunday for Jessica Zimmer, whose mother insisted on spending weekends outdoors when she was a child. “We used to go bird-watching, and every Sunday on a nice day we went hiking. My mom always made sure we were out at a park somewhere,” said Zimmer, 31, who is now a natural resources specialist — or park ranger — at Caesar Creek Lake, a reservoir in southwestern Ohio that is owned and operated by the USACE Louisville District. Zimmer had always wanted to be a park ranger, but was dissuaded from applying because she’d heard that park jobs were too competitive. Instead, she joined the Army Reserves. “I got deployed to Afghanistan a year after I graduated high school, then worked full time for the Army Reserves for three years,” Zimmer said. “Although I loved being in the military, I realized it wasn’t my passion. So I decided to go back to school and study biology.” Zimmer studied at night and worked a private-sector job during the day. When she decided to trade the latter for a position in her field of study, she sought and obtained a summer park ranger job at Caesar Creek Lake, expecting to lose it at the end of the season. When the summer ended, however, she was invited to apply for full-time employment via the Pathways Internship Program. “I got the internship, and it was amazing how well it aligned with my degree,” said Zimmer, who spent a year in the Pathways Program before transitioning to full-time employment in the same position, in which her duties include surveying local wildlife, running the Caesar Creek Visitors Center and providing safety education and oversight to visitors. “The Pathways Program was an amazing experience. Doing it was the best thing I’ve ever done because now I have my dream job, and I absolutely love it.”


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

31


32

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

OUTREACH SOUTHWESTERN DIVISION

STEM Ambassadors Sharing a passion for science and tech with the next generation

A

S PART OF THIS year’s National

Engineers Week, held Feb. 17-23, representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visited schools and museums throughout the country to share how they use math and science principles in their careers and to

encourage students to pursue jobs in fields such as research, technology and engineering. USACE employees participated in mentorship programs, science fairs, robotics competitions, teacher-training workshops, recreational events, STEM camps and other educational opportunities.

USACE

Ron Wooten, an Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District regulatory division specialist, talked about his discovery of red wolf DNA in coyotes on Galveston Island in Texas. Wooten was invited to attend Ocean Discovery Night at Oppe Elementary School in Galveston. More than 300 parents, teachers and elementary students learned about DNA evidence and endangered species.

HEADQUARTERS Staff from the Corps’ Washington, D.C., headquarters attended the National Building Museum’s Discover Engineering Family Day. USACE’s informational display included an activity in which children built a miniature bridge and then drove a batterypowered car over the structure to test its sturdiness. BILL COSTLOW

TIM BOYLE

AUDREY GOSSETT

NORTHWESTERN DIVISION Capt. Brent Vance showed Walla Walla, Wash., high school students how to build a generator for a National Engineers Week competition. This year, 400 students from area high schools worked in teams of four to build small generators and compete to see which one could produce the most voltage. Prior to the competition, Walla Walla USACE District employees volunteered at 21 sessions to help prepare students for the exercises.

NORTH ATLANTIC DIVISION Capt. Daniel Powell, a resident engineer with the USACE’s Philadelphia District, spoke with students during a February visit to Carver Engineering and Science High School in Philadelphia. USACE has partnered with Carver High School for several years, providing internships, shadowing opportunities and working to highlight the Corps’ mission and importance of careers in science and engineering.


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

33


34

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

OUTREACH

MAJ. DARRELL MELROSE

SOUTH ATLANTIC DIVISION

DENA O’DELL

Command Sgt. Maj. Douglas Padgett and Master Sgt. Robert Burns visited Brumby Elementary School in Marietta, Ga., and led students in team-building exercises to demonstrate the ways engineering can be used in USACE and other careers.

SOUTH PACIFIC DIVISION USACE Los Angeles District employees Alfonso Quintero, Raina Fulton and Chadi Wahby talked about their careers with students during John Muir High School’s Engineering and Environmental Science Academy Career Exploration Showcase Day in Pasadena, Calif.

GREAT LAKES AND OHIO RIVER DIVISION Shannon Chader and Adam Hamm, Buffalo District members of the USACE Regional Technical Services Dive Team, provided information on dive procedures and equipment and shared personal anecdotes during a National Engineers Week event at the Buffalo Museum of Science in Buffalo, N.Y.

PACIFIC OCEAN DIVISION

TOM SLOAN

Gerhard Hahn and Eric Blackmon of the USACE Alaska District’s Geomatics Section explained how survey instruments are used to gather data for the production of maps, drawings and reports during STEM Night at Ravenwood Elementary School in Eagle River, Alaska. The team allowed students and parents to “test drive” some of the organization’s state-of-the-art survey equipment and view pre- and postconstruction relief maps of the recently completed Valdez Harbor project.

JESS LEVENSON

MISSISSIPPI VALLEY DIVISION Rock Island District civil engineering technician Missi Brown used a model to demonstrate how wetlands help flood mitigation at the Introduce a Girl to Engineering event held at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. Now in its sixth year, the event is open to girls ages 3 to 13 and demonstrates how STEM skills translate to jobs in the field of engineering.

JULIE SHOEMAKER

TRANSATLANTIC DIVISION

JIM FINN

Col. Stephen Bales, Middle East District commander, conducted a STEM activity with students at STARBASE Academy in Winchester, Va. STARBASE is a year-round Department of Defense-sponsored program aimed at promoting STEM to middle school students. During this activity, the students were divided into teams to build Popsicle-stick bridges to see which one could support the most weight.


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

35


36

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

UPPING THEIR GAME As extreme weather strains resources,  USACE response teams get creative The Army National Guard placed sandbags at Puerto Rico’s Guajataca Dam. ANNMARIE HARVIE


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

37

By Brian Barth

F

USACE worked to stabilize Puerto Rico’s Guajataca Dam after it was badly damaged by Hurricane Maria.

IVE DAYS AFTER HURRICANE Maria

made landfall in Puerto Rico in September 2017, Logan Wilkinson, a USACE emergency management specialist, found himself staring at a gaping hole in the spillway of the Guajataca Dam. Some 70,000 people lived below the fast-eroding earthen structure and 250,000 received drinking water from the reservoir, but the hurricane had damaged the inlet pipe, cutting off the potable water supply. The sole highway access to the site was washed out and impassable, forcing construction crews to navigate their enormous trucks down tiny back roads not designed to accommodate them, as they attempted to ferry supplies to the remote site in a mad dash to save the dam. A brigade of helicopters flew in with enormous sandbags and rock as a stopgap measure to plug the hole. “Had we not taken these protective measures there is a very good chance the dam would have failed,” Wilkinson said. The Guajataca Dam was far from his only concern, however. “In addition to the precarious situation at the dam, there was flooding islandwide. It’s an island; you can’t drive there, so it was a tremendous logistical challenge to get personnel on the ground.” Ongoing power outages and a lack of potable water and basic supplies were additional challenges. Nonetheless, Wilkinson established an interagency task force on the island in collaboration with other local and federal agencies. A flood fight training course was held on a local beach where workers learned to properly fill HESCO barriers — enormous sandbags that can be unfurled and filled to form a nearly instant floodwall. Rain

ANNMARIE HARVIE

“The new normal looks like long-term missions in response to large, complex catastrophes. These events are resource intensive. It’s a challenge.” — RAY ALEXANDER, USACE director of contingency operations continued to pound down for weeks after the hurricane, which had already decimated island vegetation, leaving denuded hillsides that funneled water into streams and rivers in a muddy torrent. CO NTINUED

EDWARD LOOMIS

USACE quality assurance specialist Dottie Sellers and management engineer Peter Gibson welcomed director of contingency operations Ray Alexander to a work site near San Juan, Puerto Rico, following hurricanes Maria and Irma.


38

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

With estimates of up to 5,000 dead in Puerto Rico, 2017 was the deadliest Atlantic hurricane season ever, and one of the costliest. For Wilkinson, it was an exasperating period. When Maria hit Puerto Rico, he was in Tampa, Fla., assisting with the USACE response to Hurricane Irma, which had been preceded a few weeks earlier by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Add Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and hurricanes Michael and Florence in 2018, plus the deadly wildfires and mudslides that have ravaged California in the last few years, and a frightening picture emerges: a new normal of neverending extreme weather events. “It is definitely unprecedented,” Wilkinson said.

LESSONS LEARNED USACE has long been responsible for assisting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in responding to disasters and emergencies, and for ensuring the extensive public infrastructure under their jurisdiction remains resilient in the face of anything Mother Nature throws at it. But this slew of nonstop emergencies has required new thinking about how to execute the agency’s emergency response mission. Ray Alexander, the director of contingency operations at USACE and chief of the agency’s office of homeland security, said this means doing more with the same resources — the USACE budget has not expanded in proportion to the challenge at hand. He said that USACE responded to more than 50 natural disasters in 2018, from floods and blizzards to wildfires and mudslides; the agency received more than 170 mission assignments from FEMA, requiring the support of more than 3,000 personnel. The CONTINUED

USACE LOS ANGELES DISTRICT

THE MONTECITO MUDSLIDES In January 2018, torrential rain on the hills surrounding the Southern California town of Montecito caused a wall of mud and debris to inundate residential areas. At least 20 people lost their lives. “There were boulders the size of buses coming down,” said Jon Vivanti of the Los Angeles USACE district. He explained that detention basins in the foothills around Montecito were built in the 1960s and ’70s to capture mudslides before they could reach populated areas. But in late 2017, the Thomas fire, one of the largest blazes in California recorded history, denuded those hills of vegetation, setting the stage for the unprecedented mudslides that occurred that winter and exceeded the basins’ capacity. This year, Vivanti is leading an effort to develop advanced predictive models to analyze mudslide risk in the area, which will help inform government agencies on how best to prevent similar catastrophes. He said predicting potential mud flow — the prerequisite for designing detention basins of sufficient capacity in the right location — is a notoriously difficult task. The variables are exceedingly complex: slope, soil type and geologic stability are all at play, and if heavy rain follows a fire, the risk of a mudslide increases dramatically. “We’re using new technologies that the Corps has developed that represent the state of the art in terms of how mud and debris flows actually work,” said Vivanti. “The goal is to be able to forecast the amount of sediment that could come down and ensure that the basins are big enough to accommodate it.”

DENA O’DELL

USACE contractors, at the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, removed more than 450,000 cubic yards of debris from 11 basins and 10 channels near Santa Barbara, Calif., after last year’s mudslides.


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

39


40

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

issue, said Alexander, is those employees (engineers, architects, managers) leave behind their day jobs at USACE when they are called to emergency response missions — often, in recent years, for multiple back-to-back assignments. “The Corps still has a mission in terms of military construction, water resources, etc., which are impacted because these are the same people who have projects to manage and execute back home,” said Alexander. “In an unconstrained resource environment, I would generate additional response teams, train more personnel and have them ready to throw into the mix. But our budget is very tight. So we have to smartly manage the deployment of personnel to ensure we don’t have mission fatigue.” One of Alexander’s strategies for doing more with less is to farm out emergency response work to contractors, an approach that can cut costs if applied to tasks that the private sector can accomplish more efficiently than the government. Another strategy is to better coordinate with other public agencies in a “whole of government” approach, delegating missions to whichever local and federal actors are best suited to the task at hand. After hurricanes Florence and Michael last year, USACE utilized the National Guard and active-duty troops in response missions for the first time, noted Alexander. Technology has also lent a helping hand. Alexander said that unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles are an increasingly viable option for surveying vulnerable infrastructure before, during and after extreme weather events, without expending valuable human resources. “That allows us to identify areas of concern and then send teams into the field only when needed

USACE’s Memphis District put this cofferdam in place last July in the Ohio River levee.

USACE MEMPHIS DISTRICT

SPRING FLOODING IN THE MIDWEST Hurricane-prone coastal areas are not the only places that have seen a recent uptick in severe weather. This spring, a “bomb cyclone” storm caused flooding in at least a dozen Midwest states, some of it of historic proportions. Maj. Gen. Richard Kaiser, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division of USACE, said this is the wettest this part of the country has been since record-keeping began 124 years ago, with some areas engaged in an ongoing “flood fight” since late last summer. “That means men and women going up and down the levees on a 24-hour basis, checking to make sure they are still structurally sound.” The Mississippi River and Tributaries project, authorized by the 1928 Flood Control Act, provides flood risk management and an efficient navigation channel on the lower Mississippi River, but the system is not finished. For example, an additional 67.5 miles of levees need to be constructed. The good news? The existing system of levees in the Mississippi Basin (as of early May) has held strong, said Kaiser. The bad news? Not all areas are protected by levees. “The levee system performed exactly as designed where it is complete, but in unprotected areas” — mostly farmland — “farmers are likely to have difficulty getting their crops planted this year.” And each year the levee system remains incomplete is another year of risk. “If the system were completed, the negative effects of this flood would have been dramatically less,” said Kaiser.

to mitigate an impending risk.” The agency is also developing its own internal (geographic information systems) platform that will enable emergency managers to “click on the map and know what the river level is at such and such a place and how high it might rise, or see the level of water in one of our reservoirs and how much storage capacity remains,” without the need to send out staff, said Alexander. “The goal is to facilitate real-time decision-making during an emergency response.” Meanwhile, recovery from last year’s hurricane season is ongoing. The restoration of Puerto Rico’s power grid — a mission that fell to USACE, even though it’s not the sort the agency is best-equipped for, said Alexander — was recently completed. But cleanup and rebuilding continues in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida. “The new normal looks like long-term missions in response to large, complex catastrophes. These events are resource intensive. It’s a challenge.”


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

41


42

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

DYNAMOS

Cutting-edge technologies are changing the game By Adam Stone

K

NOWN MORE FOR ITS dams and

bridges than its high-tech savvy, the Corps is in fact a technology powerhouse, leveraging digital expertise across a range of operations. Corps researchers have done pioneering work with geospatial mapping. They’re also delivering solutions on the cutting edge of

robotics; piloting drones to support critical infrastructure; and evolving commercial 3D printing up to industrial scales. Here’s a look at how different USACE research teams are innovating to put technology front and center: CONTINUED

USACE SOUTHWESTERN DIVISION/FORT WORTH DISTRICT


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

43


44

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

REMEMBERING THE FALLEN USACE got an early start on geospatial mapping. In 2011, the Corps’ Army Geospatial Center (AGC) was using GPS technology to chart the precise location of nearly 300,000 graves in Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery. “They did not have electronic maps. They had cumbersome paper maps that were difficult for visitors to access and understand,” said Ashley Ann Utter, branch chief for the U.S. Army Geospatial Center in Alexandria, Va. “Now the entire cemetery is mapped, including headstones and monuments, and also roads and infrastructure: fire hydrants, electrical data, underground pipes and water.” More recently the Corps has combined GPS with advanced Light Detection and

A USACE engineer maps a Panama City cemetary with a Light Detection and Ranging system.

Ranging (LiDAR) technology, a mapping tool that can create detailed renderings of the landscape. At the request of the American Battle Monuments Commission, AGC has already used this sophisticated methodology to survey historic battlefield sites in Panama and Normandy, France. As with Arlington National Cemetery, there previously had been no searchable maps of these sites. “But there is more than just mapping,” said George Ohanian, product director for USACE Combat Terrain Information Systems. “We used GPS. We took photos of the headstones front and back, and then we used LiDAR to create a richer experience,” he said. The LiDAR data will help preserve these historic places. Planners

could use the information to design roads, route visitors or manage landscape details. “It allows us to reconstruct the site digitally, and that’s powerful,” Ohanian said. In the future, the LiDAR data could make these sites accessible to visitors who aren’t able to see them in person. “We could put this LiDAR data into a 3D headset and then, if you couldn’t travel to the site physically, you could walk through it just as if you were there.”

SAFE LANDING FOR SHIPS It isn’t always easy for military vessels to get in close to shore. Maybe the harbor has been silted up, or maybe there is no CONTI NUED

This unmanned mini-robotic dredger is outfitted with a range of cameras and sensors so that the operator on the surface can remotely steer it.

USACE; USACE ERDC COASTAL AND HYDRAULICS LABORATORY


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

45


46

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

harbor at all. What’s something small, safe and powerful that could cut a channel in a hurry? A mini robotic dredge would do the trick, and so the Corps’ U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) set out to build one. “Mini” is relative: The prototype dredge is 40 feet long and weighs more than 25,000 pounds with its powerpack, but that’s still a big advance. “It packs up into four boxes that are transportable,” said Thad Pratt, a research physicist at the ERDC’s Coastal and Hydraulics Lab in Vicksburg, Miss. “Most dredges are huge; they are big ships, and it takes a long time to move them. This will pack into a military air transport plane, and you can drop it off anywhere in the world.” Engineers rigged the unmanned machine with a range of cameras and sensors so that a human operator on the surface can see just where to steer it. This reduces the risk that would come with putting a human underwater, and it also keeps folks out of harm’s way in unsafe circumstances. “It means that if you are looking (at) unexploded bombs in the water as you are dredging, you can expose that object without having a human in (the) vicinity,” Pratt said. Researchers started work on the machine in late 2018 and had a prototype running by spring 2019. With further field testing planned, Pratt said, the dredge could be deployed to military users as early as 2020. Thanks to recent advances in technology, the Corps was able to leverage commercial components for much of the design, which helped to bring down the cost. The “cool” factor around robotics these days also gave the program a boost. “A lot of schools now teach robotics, so you have kids studying this in college, which leads to a lot of activity around the off-the-shelf pieces and parts,” Pratt said. “The technology is always improving.”

MANAGING THE INFRASTRUCTURE In USACE’s Southwestern Division Fort Worth District, engineers have combined drones and 3D-printing technology to create a powerful new solution. Three years ago, the Corps started using drones to inspect the district’s dams and levees. “In the past it was done by a person walking the entire dam structure over the course of several days,” said Matthew Milliorn, deputy chief of

USACE employees are using drones to quickly and safely inspect dams, levees and other sites.

CONTINUED

USACE SOUTHWESTERN DIVISION/FORT WORTH DISTRICT


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

47


48

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

the Standardization and Sustainability Branch at Fort Worth District. “Now we can fly over and get all the information we need for engineers to look for any irregularities and quickly estimate things like how much soil they would need to make a repair.” The drones delivered immediate and tangible value. “We were asked to go to Joe Pool Lake in Grand Prairie, Texas, to fly the dam because the earth had shifted down,” Milliorn said. “In reviewing that data, the engineers actually found two more slides that they could not see visually just by standing on the dam.” More recently the engineers began feeding that data into a 3D printer to create miniature landscapes that exactly mirror the conditions of the dam and levee infrastructure. “When you are working on a design and it’s 2D on a piece of paper, it can be hard to interpret what that plan will look like in 3D space,” Milliorn said. “Now you can hold it in your hand and pour some water on it, and actually see how the water would flow over it.” District engineers have used the same 3D-printing technology to prototype contruction designs for barracks, battalion headquarters and vehicle maintenance facilities. “We can go to the soldier who will be occupying this space and show them just what that facility is going to look like,” Milliorn said. “It just makes it so much easier for people when they can see something in 3D.”

3D PRINTING A BRIDGE For many people, 3D printing calls to mind the neat little machines on display in bookstores and libraries, the ones that turn out action figures and small decorative items. But what if you needed something bigger, like a barracks or a bridge? Army Corps technologists have scaled up 3D printing to make infrastructure-on-thego a real possibility. In December 2018, they joined with Navy and Marine Corps engineers to “print” a pedestrian bridge at Camp Pendleton, Calif. “The Army has portable pre-manufactured bridges, but we have a finite number of them. You might also need a custom bridge to cross a particular gap and if you are making that out of concrete, that takes a lot of time,” said Michael Case, program manager for Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures at ERDC. The prototype bridge took 12 hours to print and can hold 15,000 pounds, said

Megan Kreiger, an ERDC mechanical engineer and project manager. Corps engineers applied considerable expertise to scale up the consumer-sized notion of 3D printing. “You have to create large mechanical systems that can deliver the required precision and still get dirty and take a beating,” Kreiger said. “Also, we want our printers to be mobile, so we have to factor that in as well.” One version of the printer can be assembled in 30 minutes without the use of heavy equipment. “It packages into one 20-foot shipping container,” Kreiger said. “In terms of transportability and mobility, you could ship it wherever you need it, set it up and be up and running within an hour.” USACE experts envision the printers traveling with forward-deployed troops, or being sent to deliver on urgent infrastructure needs in disaster-relief scenarios. “We are talking with different military services about ways to field this technology,” Case said. “They could be used any place where we need a strong, highquality structure built fairly quickly. 3D printing has the potential to really change how we do construction.”

USACE and the Marine Corps collaborated on a project that used 3D-printing technology to construct a concrete bridge at Camp Pendleton in California.

ENSIGN ELIZABETH FLANARY/U.S. NAVY; MIKE JAZDYK


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

49


50

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

s

Tribal Nation COORDINATION Liaisons work to create a successful partnership between Army Corps, indigenous peoples By Mary Helen Berg HEN DAVID VADER APPLIED to be a tribal liaison for the Army Corps of Engineers in 1992, he noticed something unusual about the job description for the new position in the Omaha District. Along with more routine requirements, candidates were expected to have “empathy.” With that one word, the job listing seemed to acknowledge the long and complicated history between Native Americans and U.S. government agencies and suggested a new era of partnership between the Army Corps and the 573 federally recognized tribes, Vader recalled.

W

FOSTERING PARTNERSHIP But cultivating a better, more balanced relationship wasn’t easy. In fact, the early days of the tribal liaison program were “bloody and bruising,” Vader said. Corps members struggled to build trust with the tribes and adjust to

new directives from President Bill Clinton that required federal agencies to consult with tribes as sovereign nations on a governmentto-government level when projects or policies might affect them, Vader said. “All of a sudden here comes a layer of responsibility that’s at the government-to-government level instead of just as a stakeholder,” said Vader, who served as tribal liaison in the Omaha District, the Corps’ largest, from 1992 to 2000. “It changes everything on how (the Army Corps can) proceed, how they evaluate and how they decide. Initially, there was a lot of pushback, but there were also a lot of champions.” As Vader traveled to remote parts of the country to hear the concerns of the 29 federally recognized tribes in the Missouri River basin, more challenges became clear. “Every tribe, every council, every tribal entity had a different idea or notion on what ‘consultation’ is,” Vader said. “And outside the CONTI NUED


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

51

Clockwise from left: Veteran tribal honor guard members at the dedication of Old Scouts Cemetery in White Shield, N.D.; USACE natural resource staff member and Quileute tribal member Perry Black assists in assessments needed to move the village to higher ground; tribal members partake it a drum circle at the Old Scouts Cemetary dedication ceremony; members of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nations participate in a parade in New Town, N.D., to celebrate the opening of a new health care facility. The USACE Omaha District provided engineering design, contracting services and construction oversight for the project. PROVIDED BY DAVID VADER (2); COURTESY OF THE QUILEUTE NATURAL RESOURCES DEPARTMENT; USACE OMAHA DISTRICT


52

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

USACE OMAHA DISTRICT

Members of the USACE Omaha District, USACE Northwestern Division and Mississippi River Commission attended an August 2007 powwow at the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana to learn more about tribal cultures and practices and the affects of drought conditions in the region.

Department of Interior, there were hardly any agencies that had a policy or principles outlining consultation.”

A GROWING PROGRAM Other districts began to add liaisons, and in 1996, the Corps adopted the Tribal Nation Program, acknowledging “the wisdom that tribes bring to the table and how our programs, projects and activities are enhanced by their input.” The program formalized the agency’s pledge to consult and collaborate with tribes affected by Army Corps water resource projects. The Corps has tried to develop policies, principles and programs with a sensitivity that should accompany the federal government’s trust responsibility to the tribes, said Lisa Morales, senior tribal liaison and Tribal Nations program manager. “When you’re working with tribal communities, it’s important to remember that there is

historical trauma in the history of the United States with the tribes,” Morales said. “It’s fresh for them. It’s in their hearts. It’s on the surface. Everywhere we touch, the tribes have been before us. They’ve always been here. We need to remember that.” Army Corps headquarters added a full-time senior tribal liaison in 2003, and today each of the agency’s 38 civil works districts has a liaison. In addition, a Tribal Community of Practice, a nationwide network of more than 200 planners, project managers and others, shares resources and expertise to ensure that as the Corps fulfills its missions, the tribes are equal players.

WORKING TOGETHER The Corps provides support to tribes during floods and other emergencies, administers cleanup of former munitions sites on tribal lands, repatriates human remains and sacred objects and provides expertise and research

for water resource projects. The agency’s civil works program offers concrete benefits to tribal communities, Morales said. For example, the Tribal Partnership Program (TPP), authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, provides up to $484,000 in federal funds to study and find solutions to problems such as flooding and erosion. Soon, up to $12.5 million in TPP construction funds also will be available, Morales said. In western Washington state, the Quileute Tribe has used the Tribal Partnership Program to address an issue critical to the tribe’s survival. The Quileute reservation is located in a tsunami zone on the Pacific Coast, and the entire village needs to relocate inland to higher ground, said Frank Geyer, Quileute Tribe natural resources director. “It’s very urgent,” Geyer said. “We’re living CONTI NUED


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

53


54

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

PROVIDED BY DAVID VADER

Tribal members presented USACE employee David Vader with a quilt to thank him for lobbying for the repositioning of cemetery headstones in the eastward-facing tribal tradition. The Old Scouts Cemetery in North Dakota holds remains dating back to the Battle of Little Bighorn.

on borrowed time.” The Corps conducted environmental assessments for the tribe, providing the background needed to launch a project estimated to cost a billion dollars, Geyer said. “The Corps has been incredibly instrumental in assisting us in this ability to move,” Geyer said. “The Quileute Tribe is a very poor tribe. It doesn’t have a casino. They’re out on the coast in a very rural area, so they don’t have a lot of their own resources to fund this incredibly large and expensive project.” An effort to restore the river’s ecosystem is a top priority for some tribes, but not all, said Cathi Warren, the district’s Native American consultant for Missouri River programs and studies. “Each tribe has a different focus,” said Warren, who is a member of the Chickasaw Tribe of Oklahoma. “Some are very honest and say, ‘We want to recover these species but if recovering those species is going to impact us as humans then we don’t want you to do it.’ They ask, ‘Is it going to impact our water intake? Is it going to take our land?’ Priorities are truly very different sometimes from tribe to tribe.”

MENDING THE PAST Liaisons may also work with tribes to correct wrongs committed in the past. Vader learned that the Bureau of Indian Affairs had made a culturally insensitive mistake when it relocated the graves of Native American military veterans decades earlier. The Indian Scout Post #1 or Old Scouts cemetery on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota held remains dating back to the Battle of Little Bighorn. Headstones had been neatly aligned, but they faced south instead of east, as tribal tradition demanded, he said. For years, tribes lobbied to correct the mistake. As the new tribal liaison, Vader worked up the chain of command until he gained enough support to reorient the headstones and graves. The tribes later presented him with a star quilt, a symbol of their gratitude. “I thought, ‘This is what it’s all about, to be invited up on a podium with the tribes and be honored for doing something that seemed so small, but it was huge to them,’ ” Vader said. FUTURE CHALLENGES The Corps recognizes that “federal policies have been extremely inconsistent and

harmful to tribal cultures” and it is committed to “cultivating an era of friendship, trust and respect,” according to a guide to consulting with tribal nations. Still, tribes remain frustrated regarding the Corps’ process of communication and consultation, according to a 2017 joint report from the Departments of the Army, Interior and Justice Corps. At times, consultation occurs too late for meaningful input, the report found, or it is conducted as an obligation, not as a sincere opportunity to address tribal concerns. Joel Ames, who holds Vader’s old post as tribal liaison for the Omaha District, said the Corps will continue to strive for a robust, respectful partnership with the tribes. “I’m not saying that we’re the easiest organization to work with, because we have all these rules and regulations that we have to follow, and sometimes they just don’t match up with what the tribes are looking for,” Ames explained. “A better understanding of each other and to continue growing the relationships, I guess I would say is the big goal. And being able to work more smoothly through some of the real challenging issues that exist out there.”


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

TECH SLAP THAT KNOW-IT-ALL NEPHEW. Know what’s in, what’s out, and what’s awesome before others even know what it is.

Get your tech going. Download our free app.

55


56

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

HYDROPOWER

Navigation maintenance employees with the Corps’ Tulsa District prepare for operations at the Robert S. Kerr Lock & Dam 15 near Sallisaw, Okla.

PRESTON L. CHASTEEN/USACE

By Adam Stone

Power Up McClellan-Kerr system moves goods, creates energy, provides recreation

W

INDING ITS WAY THROUGH the heart of

America, the McClellanKerr Arkansas River Navigation System is an economic powerhouse — moving some $3 billion in goods annually. It’s also a literal powerhouse. Supported by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, four hydropower stations generate some 1,714 gigawatt hours of electricity each year, serving about 10 million households.

“It’s an important part of our portfolio of renewable energy sources,” said Scott Williams, manager of government relations and communications for the Western Farmers Electric Cooperative in Oklahoma. “We have wind and solar, but the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. We know that hydro is always going to be available.”

COMPLEX OPERATIONS The Corps labors to maintain the power plants, which all are about half a century CONTI NUED


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

57


58

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

HYDROPOWER

A 14-barge tow boat moves goods up the 445-mile-long McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.

USACE LITTLE ROCK DISTRICT; GETTY IMAGES

MKARNS HYDROPOWER PROJECTS HELP SERVE NEARLY

10 MILLION HOUSEHOLDS SOURCE: Southwestern Power Resources Association

old. That is just one small part of the larger effort to support complex operations along the McClellan-Kerr system, or MKARNS. More than 11 million tons of cargo a year traverse the MKARNS’ 445 miles of navigable river from the Mississippi River to the Tulsa Port of Catoosa in Oklahoma. Frequent dredging by the Corps ensures the channels are wide and deep enough. The system’s 18 locks and dams in Oklahoma and Arkansas also create large navigation pools or lakes that offer a venue for fishing, boating and other recreational activities. “I go duck hunting and fishing. You can catch bass and catfish; there are perch and crappie and spoonbill. You can see a couple bald eagles flying over. It’s a good way to spend a day,” said Rodney Beard, navigation project manager for the Corps’ Tulsa District. When he isn’t out fishing, Beard is busy working to ensure the waterway is ready and able to support a range of economic

activities. “We get a lot of crops, your soybeans and your wheat. We have petroleum products, we have fertilizer, as well as a lot of manufactured goods, stuff that you maybe couldn’t drive on the highway because of the size — things like large generators,” he said. Shipping by water helps reduce greenhouse emissions. A typical tow on the Arkansas River pushes 12 to 15 barges, each barge being equal to 16 rail cars or 70 semi trucks. “You can just imagine how many more trucks you’d have to put on the highway if we didn’t have this waterway,” Beard said. When spring floods jam the shipping channels with sand, the Corps works to keep those lanes clear for barges. In times of drought, USACE dredging crews ensure the channels maintain the 9-foot depth needed to keep the barges moving. The Corps also maintains the locks and dams. “They are getting close to 50 years CONTINUED

CARBON DIOXIDE OFFSET BY MKARNS HYDROPOWER GENERATION:

1.4 MILLION TONS PER YEAR SOURCE: Southwestern Power Resources Association


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

59


60

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

HYDROPOWER

TO REPLACE MKARNS HYDROPOWER, IT WOULD TAKE:

13.8

3

BILLION CUBIC FEET OF NATURAL GAS

MILLION BARRELS OF FUEL OIL

913,000 Robert S. Kerr Lock & Dam 15 and powerhouse

TONS OF COAL SOURCE: Southwestern Power Resources Association

PRESTON L. CHASTEEN/USACE; GETTY IMAGES

old now, so we do have our challenges. There are a lot of metal components and parts submerged in water, so rust is always an issue. Electrical components need to be replaced with newer designs,” Beard said. At the same time, the Corps also works in close cooperation with local businesses that depend on MKARNS for power.

A POWERFUL SYSTEM “Hydro is a reliable, consistent product. You can get hydro dispatched to you at any time. If you need it, your power will be there,” said Nicki Fuller, executive director of the Tulsa-based Southwestern Power Resources Association. The federal Southwestern Power Administration markets the energy from the system’s four hydro plants. Fuller’s trade group represents the end users — the cities, towns and rural electric cooperatives that rely on MKARNS. Fuller said her constituents appreciate having a “green” alternative in the energy

FOUR POWER PLANTS ON THE SYSTEM RETURN NEARLY

$41,300,000 EVERY YEAR TO THE U.S. TREASURY SOURCE: Southwestern Power Resources Association

mix. “These are people who live in the area, and having an environmentally friendly product is extremely important to them,” she said. It requires considerable effort to keep those turbines spinning. As the power plants age, “they take quite a bit of tender loving care,” said James McKinnie, chief of the navigation and maintenance

section for USACE’s Little Rock (Ark.) District. “You can have gates that don’t open all the way, or things that get too hot or too cold. It’s a major effort to keep them running.” With MKARNS facing a backlog of some $143 million in critical maintenance projects, local business leaders say they are eager to support the Corps

in its efforts to keep the hydro plants humming. “We have committed as a customer to help fund the rehabilitation of these facilities for the next 20 to 30 years, and we rely on the Corps to do that maintenance and to do those upgrades,” Williams said. “We want to work with the Corps to keep those hydro facilities in the best possible shape, so that they can be available all of the time.” As a partner in that effort, Fuller gives the Corps high marks for effectively managing the complex demands of the hydropower plants alongside the recreation, commercial and other aspects of the system. “The Corps has a very difficult job, balancing hydropower, navigation, flood control. They go into it knowing they cannot make everyone happy, and yet given all those competing perspectives, they do a really good job of striking a balance,” she said. “They work closely with us so that we can all be lined up in order to have a successful program.”


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

61


62

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP Salt marsh harvest mouse

Wonderful Wetlands San Francisco Bay shoreline project restores habitat, prevents flooding

By Tamara Lytle

G

OOGLE EMPLOYEES, HOMEOWNERS AND the

endangered salt marsh harvest mouse all coexist in a flood-prone area at the southern end of San Francisco Bay that is in need of an environmental makeover. The $193 million San Francisco Bay shoreline project is part of the largest wetlands restoration initiative on the West Coast and includes a partnership among the Army Corps of Engineers, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the California State Coastal Conservancy. The project area includes a flood plain in the San Jose neighborhood of Alviso where about 2,100 people live and another 3,400 work, many at high-tech firms such as Cisco and Google. There is also a wastewater treatment plant that serves 1.5 million people and is vulnerable to damage by a major storm. The area faces challenges from past environmental practices and rising sea levels from global warming. Commercial salt ponds with dikes built 100 years ago were not engineered to provide enough protection from storms. These dikes have also blocked tidal flow that many species need to survive. “This is a huge impact to the South Bay in an area that has suffered significant flooding,” said Lt. Col. David Kaulfers, the Army Corps’ program manager for the San Francisco district. “We’re going to provide protection for the town as well as fix those ponds and return them to tidal action.” New higher levees carefully designed to prevent flooding will offer flat tops and gentle slopes that will shelter endangered species such as the salt marsh harvest mouse and the Ridgway’s Rail (also known as the California Clapper Rail),

LARRY QUINTANA; JUDY IRVING

CONTI NUED


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

63


64

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

BRANDON A. BEACH; JUDY IRVING

along with other plants and animals. Up to 2,900 acres of former salt ponds will be restored to tidal wetlands, with water bringing along sediment that will spur vegetation. Four miles of levees will protect the area from flooding, which means some residents of Alviso might see their property damage risk and insurance rates reduced. The project is expected to be completed in 2042, and it will be done in stages so that engineers and environmental experts can evaluate how it is affecting the ecosystem, including pond-loving species that have moved in since the tides were cut off long ago. The flood protection portion is estimated to be completed by 2023, at which point the focus will shift to environmental improvements. Recreational trails will also be added. Along with its large scale, the project is unusual in terms of its funding. The federal share is $73.2 million, Kaulfers said, and instead of being approved in stages, it was authorized as a lump sum. That means the Army Corps can communicate with more certainty when stages of the project will occur and better manage the economies of larger contracts. “That’s a huge game changer,” Kaulfers explained. “You know what to expect.” For instance, Kaulfers said that acquiring the 1 million cubic yards of fill

for levees is a daunting logistical task, but the Corps could begin scheduling deliveries this April so enough of it would be in place when construction begins in March of next year. The project will return three times as much in benefits as the federal cost, according to Kaulfers, because of flood prevention and environmental improvements. Richard Santos, director of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, knows firsthand the damage flooding can cause. He grew up in Alviso and was displaced from his home by floods several times as a child. As an adult, in 1983, he had just discontinued his flood insurance coverage when flooding destroyed his newly remodeled home. Since then, Santos noted, the area has seen more development, with additional residential and commercial buildings, including large tech facilities, all at risk of flooding. “If (flooding) occurred today, it would be devastating,” he said. The California State Coastal Conservancy and Santa Clara Valley Water District will pay for portions of the plan because they want features that meet their specific requests for environmental restoration and flood control. For example, animals such as the harvest mouse need places to escape storm surges and hide from predators (instead

of being pushed into office parking lots because of nearby development). So the levees were designed with a 30:1 slope instead of a 3:1 slope to add vegetationcovered space. And when tidal action brings nutrients and vegetation back to the area, migratory fish such as salmon and steelhead trout are likely to use the wetlands to bulk up before heading out into the ocean. Ducks and migratory shore birds will habitate in the marshes, and many new plants will thrive, according to Brenda Buxton, San Francisco Bay deputy program manager for the California State Coastal Conservancy. “It will greatly improve the water quality of San Francisco Bay. It will bring some of these species struggling with survival and hopefully bring them back,” Buxton said. Kaulfers noted that the environmental components of this project are sensitive and require negotiation among the competing interests. But at the end of the day, they all want to improve the area and make it safer for the people and the animals who live there. Santos said working with the Army Corps has been a positive experience. He appreciates the “no-nonsense, let’s get dirt in” attitude the Corps brings to the job. “It has been a total team effort,” Santos said.

California Ridgway’s Rail

“It will greatly improve the water quality of San Francisco Bay. It will bring some of these species struggling with survival and hopefully bring them back.” — BRENDA BUXTON, San Francisco Bay deputy program manager for the California State Coastal Conservancy


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

65


66

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Trash to Treasure Dredged Charleston Harbor material repurposed for artificial reefs

USACE CHARLESTON DISTRICT

BY AMY SINATRA AYRES

T

HE CHARLESTON HARBOR POST 45 Deepening Project

will allow larger shipping vessels to call on the area’s port terminals — and the widening of its entrance channel will also benefit the area’s marine life, providing eight massive new artificial reefs to call home. The Corps’ feasibility and preconstruction studies found that creating reefs using the dredged sediment and rock would be the most cost-effective and environmentally acceptable solution for

the placement of the material. Contracts awarded to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, valued collectively at $325 million, “encompass dredging of almost 20 million cubic yards of material — and then a significant portion of that material is limestone rock,” said Holly Carpenter, project manager for Post 45 in the USACE’s Charleston District. “We found value in this limestone rock, which is enabling us to build eight artificial reefs. Two of them are for the purpose of mitigation, and the other six are for beneficial use.” Each of the reefs provides about 33

acres of habitat for Charleston Harbor fish and invertebrates, Carpenter said. So far, the two mitigation reefs — which the Corps was required to build to make up for loss of habitat caused by the dredging — and two of the beneficial reefs have been completed. The remaining four beneficial reefs are expected to be finished by 2020, she said. Carpenter explained that the reefs are grouped together, with six of them just north of the entrance channel and two south of the channel. CONTI NUED


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

67

Scott Cunningham, AHC Distributors of Contract Hardware, Hollow Metal Doors & Frames, Wood Doors and Building Specialties

250-101 Shipwash Drive Garner, NC 27529

Phone 919-861-6340 Fax 919-861-6346


68

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

USACE biologist Bethney Ward USACE CHARLESTON DISTRICT

SMART STREAMLINING Post 45, with an estimated total cost of $548.9 million, is ahead of schedule because of USACE’s new SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Risk Informed, Timely) Planning paradigm. SMART planning enabled the Charleston District to complete its feasibility phase in fewer than four years despite an original estimate of at least seven years, saving at least $7 million. “We would have been at a point now where we were just finishing the approval for the study and instead, we’re well into construction,” said Holly Carpenter, Charleston District project manager. “In the study phase, the costs were reduced significantly, and those were risk-based decisions on things that could be looked at in more detail in a design phase, or maybe things that we didn’t need to look at in as much detail.” Post 45, which will allow large vessels to enter the Charleston Harbor fully loaded and at low tide, is the first of seven infrastructure projects in the former White House administration’s expedited “We Can’t Wait” initiative. “This was the first large navigation project from start to finish under that SMART planning process,” said Glenn Jeffries, USACE Charleston District’s chief of corporate communications. “This is going to be used sort of as the role model for other large navigation over deepening around the country.” The project is estimated to take 40 to 76 months from the time construction started in March 2018, based on industry availability, funding and environmental factors, Jeffries said. — Amy Sinatra Ayres

The new reefs may actually improve the environment for the harbor’s marine life, said Bethney Ward, biologist with the USACE Charleston District. A special excavator dredge was used to manipulate material for the two mitigation reefs. “We wanted to get the biggest chunks of limestone for those reefs, really with the idea that it’s going to create better habitat,” Ward said. “These are 3D structures that we’re building on the ocean floor as opposed to a flat surface. … It’s a lot more robust habitat.” The material used to create the two mitigation reefs alone would fill about 31,000 dump trucks, explained Glenn Jeffries, chief of corporate communications with the Charleston District. Divers with South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are beginning the five-year process of monitoring the mitigation reefs to ensure they meet the criteria for success, but some cursory reconnaissance has already shown some growth on the reefs, Ward said. While the additional six reefs won’t have official monitoring, they’re expected

to have the same growth. Over time, the reefs are expected to evolve into fully functioning habitats. First, organisms at the base of the food web such as algae, sponges, barnacles and soft corals attach themselves to the surface of the new reefs, Ward explained. Those organisms are followed by invertebrates such as shrimp, crabs and starfish, then juvenile fish that are attracted to the reefs for food and protection from larger species. Eventually, larger fish such as red drum and black sea bass are expected to arrive in search of food and a place to reproduce. These species are fished commercially and recreationally, so this provides an additional economic benefit to the area. The fish will use the reefs “for shelter and for protection; they may spawn and reproduce a lot in these sort of sheltered areas that the reefs create,” Ward said. Ward cited that other artificial reefs that the state’s DNR has built with manmade materials such as old ships and subway cars have been successful, and since these are the first artificial reefs in the area made with natural materials, she’s optimistic they will also be a success. “What’s really neat is with our artificial reefs we’re actually taking material that’s already in the Charleston Harbor. It’s part of the ocean floor. We’re taking these big limestone chunks that we’ve been dredging out and using it to build the reef. So it’s a native material … we’re really optimistic that the critters are going to really like this as a substrate for them to grow on.” It’s expected to take about three to four years for the stationary organisms to colonize and mature, and if that goes smoothly, the invertebrates and fish will follow soon after. “A lot of recreational fishers like to know where these reefs are because that’s where all the great fish are,” Ward said. The DNR will tag the federally managed black sea bass that come to the reef to monitor them and see whether they become a resident population. “If we can get some of the economically important fisheries using the reefs, now that’s really exciting for the Corps. We know then we’ve gone above and beyond, really, our mitigation requirement.” The Charleston Harbor’s entrance channel is expected to be complete in spring 2021, and by then, the reefs should be on their way to habitation. “We’ve done what we could, and we’re just really optimistic that the marine life will come in and the habitat will be created,” Ward said.


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

69


70

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

A research team in northwestern Alaska is investigating the relationship between snow depth and terrain properties.

Cold Hard Facts Monitoring the changing arctic environment By Robin Roenker

A

MID FREEZING CONDITIONS — AND with a local

Iñupiat guide standing guard against polar bears nearby — researchers Robyn Barbato and Amanda Barker drilled into the permafrost near Utqiagvik, Alaska, the northernmost city in the United States, last September. Formerly known as Barrow, Utqiagvik is part of the so-called “High Arctic,” sitting roughly 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle. As researchers with the Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) — headquartered in Hanover, N.H., with a satellite office in Fairbanks, Alaska — Barbato, Barker and their cold regions soil microbiology team are working to determine what might happen to the ancient, and previously largely

Robyn Barbato and Amanda Barker ROBERT JONES

unidentified, microbes trapped in arctic permafrost as it begins to thaw. “I call the permafrost the ‘Amazon of the North,’ ” said Barbato. “After we dig samples, we strip away the cell wall and use the DNA to try to figure out what CONTINUED

ERDC PAO


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

71


72

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

ERDC PAO

Army Corps researchers are expanding a tunnel near Fairbanks, Alaska, to study the geotechnical and biogeochemical characteristics of permafrost.

kinds of organisms are in there. We can only identify about 70 percent of them right now. The rest — which represent biodiversity from 20,000 to 45,000 years ago — are totally unknown.” In addition to potential long-range applications for bio-prospecting and even new product or drug development, there’s a more pressing need to identify and understand the innerworkings of the microbes in the permafrost: They literally help hold the arctic soil together. “We’re starting to see permafrost thaw, and we want to understand what’s happening from a biological standpoint,” said Barbato. “You can see these slumps in the landscape, particularly along the coast, where the permafrost has thawed and the landscape has just fallen into itself, similar to a sinkhole. There’s a lot of variability in the extent to how fast it’s happening, and we understand we need more measurements.”

ARCTIC AUTHORITY While CRREL isn’t charged specifically with doing climate research, its teams

of researchers do monitor the changing arctic environment while conducting their investigations on the area’s soil, permafrost, snow, glaciers, sea and freshwater ice — and even its changing weather patterns, explained Martin Jeffries, a research physical scientist at CRREL. “The entire arctic is changing. Rapid changes are occurring throughout the arctic, whether it’s on the ocean, in the air above the ocean or on the land itself,” said Jeffries, a 40-year veteran of arctic research who joined CRREL in September 2018, following appointments as a director with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and as the arctic science advisor and program officer at the Office of Naval Research’s Arctic and Global Prediction program. Jeffries’ goal is for CRREL to be the nation’s premier arctic research facility. “We want to become recognized as the go-to place for answers to cold-region science and engineering problems,” he said. Jeffries noted that the research being undertaken by CRREL’s roughly

200-member team is expansive. Some groups monitor the changing arctic environment, including the thawing permafrost and diminishing sea and glacier ice levels in the region, while other groups focus more on tactical issues related to the Department of Defense’s ability to operate in these extreme conditions — such as how best to build airplane runways and other infrastructure on icy terrain.

BROAD APPLICATIONS Permafrost engineer Kevin Bjella, based in Fairbanks, is part of a team of CRREL scientists working to monitor the changing ground terrain in the arctic, particularly as warming continues throughout the region. “We are starting to see some problems. The permafrost temperature is changing across Alaska. It’s warmed four or five degrees Celsius in just the last couple of decades,” said Bjella. “So it’s getting closer to the melting point, and that’s a concern for folks.” Bjella and his team use both ground

penetrating radar and soil resistivity testing to monitor permafrost thawing and ice levels in the region. In soil resistivity testing, an electrical current is put into the ground to test the level of conductivity. Ice is not particularly conductive to electricity, while water is. Therefore, if testing shows an area to be highly conductive to electrical current, researchers can determine that the ground in that area is thawing, or is already thawed. Bjella hopes his team’s cutting-edge mapping of the changing arctic ice and soil dynamics will enable the Army Corps of Engineers to more effectively select stable building sites for any new infrastructure in the region. “While we don’t do research into climate change — trying to explain it and the causes behind it and so on — we’re nonetheless working in regions where climate change is occurring,” said Jeffries. “And there are consequences for the Army, the Department of Defense at large, all the military branches and the nation as a whole.”


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

73


74

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Last year, USACE contractors removed 933 tons of hazardous waste from Alaska’s Fort Rousseau Causeway State Historical Park.

USACE ALASKA DISTRICT

Cleaning Up History Project makes World War II defense site safe for people, wildlife

By Patricia Kime

J

UST OFF THE COAST of Sitka,

Alaska, a short boat trip from this picturesque seaside village of 8,689 people, lies a state park with treasures hidden among nine heavily forested islands, curiosities that draw history buffs and nature lovers to their rocky shores. The attraction of Fort Rousseau Causeway State Historical Park lies not only in its rugged verdant beauty spread out over 60 acres, but in the remnants of dozens of telltale buildings, including command posts, gun batteries, lookout towers and ammunition bunkers that were constructed during World War II to protect this remote part of the United States from a Japanese invasion.

“If you were to see some of the concrete structures the (U.S.) military built there between 1941 and 1943, you would wonder how in the world they did it because access was so difficult,” said Aaron Shewman, an environmental engineer with the Corps’ Alaska District. As with many former defense sites, however, Fort Rousseau Causeway’s beauty masked a hidden danger: contaminants and debris that posed a threat to Alaska’s pristine environment and the hikers who trekked there. As far back as 1996, USACE, under its Formerly Used Defense Sites program (FUDS), began identifying sources of contamination and debris that needed to be removed from Fort Rousseau’s islands, CONTI NUED


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

75


76

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

including drums and batteries, fuels, metals, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs — chemicals known to cause cancer in humans. “It would take a lifetime of living there for someone to have adverse effects directly from the contamination,” said Shewman, who knew the former landfill was an ecological problem. “It was eroding into the ocean, and some of those contaminants, like PCBs, are bio-cumulative, meaning they can accumulate in the fatty tissue of fish, and birds eat the fish, so they are passed on to the birds, and people eat the fish or the birds. There’s a food web.” As part of its job to clean up former military sites, USACE embarked on a massive plan to restore Fort Rousseau, spending years developing a strategy, and in 2018, hiring a contractor to perform the work at the location. Unpredictable weather, tides and the location — which may not be remote by Alaska standards but could only be reached by boat — made the job challenging, Corps officials said. This meant workers had to be ferried in and out daily, and soil and hazardous waste could be carted away only by barge. “Marine vessels only, that made it tricky, having the causeway (the road) washed out made it tricky, and the tides made it tricky,” Shewman said. “We had to time some of the work with the tides, or we wouldn’t have been able to do (it).” The goal was to remove all contents of a large landfill down to bedrock and clean up known areas containing mercury and contaminants such as fuel, lead and other hazardous materials while limiting the impact on the park. “This was crucial, trying to get this contamination while not making a bigger mess — that was what was on everybody’s mind, trying to improve the

PHOTOS BY USACE ALASKA DISTRICT

Crews used marine vessels and heavy equipment to remove fuel, lead, metal and other debris from the Fort Rousseau site.

environment and not make it worse,” said Ken Andraschko, chief of USACE’s FUDS program in Alaska. The contracting company, Ahtna Engineering Services, set up a boom around the work areas to ensure that contaminants didn’t pollute adjacent waters and used bags containing gravel to contain the work on land. Over the course of five weeks, the workers toiled, removing 933 tons of hazardous waste and 5,157 tons of nonhazardous material, plus 317 pounds of electronics equipment, 168 pounds of broken lead acid battery plates and

roughly 133 tons of steel. According to Shewman, they also ended up making some improvements that hikers will appreciate. “Our contractors left the trails in at least as good condition as when they arrived, and in some cases even better, because they had to make improvements for heavy equipment access during the work,” he said. The hazardous waste was transported to Oregon for disposal; the nonhazardous waste ended up at a Roosevelt, Wash., landfill, and the scrap steel was recycled. While there is more work to be done

— an intertidal area at the island west of the former landfill needs its own environmental cleanup — what has been left following the job are pristine trails and historic structures that captivate many locals and tourists who arrive weekly in Sitka during the summer. “Fort Rousseau is located adjacent to an active community. I knew it would be a rewarding project — we did a lot of good there,” Shewman said. “Kayaking out to an old World War II Army fort where they can see bunkers, ammunition magazines, fire control towers — that really excites people.”


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

BE THE FAN YOU WERE BORN TO BE! Join the most active and engaged community of sports fans in America and tap into the mother lode of everything you need to lead the sports conversation.

Get all your sports. Download our free app.

77


78

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

HISTORY

Corps Collage Download iconic images of organization’s heritage and history

U

SACE’S HISTORY POSTER FEATURES

105 images of employees, projects and artifacts from the Revolutionary War to the present. Go to www. usace.army.mil/about/history.aspx to download the PDF, or customize the design template to create your own. You can also view an interactive version that shares background information about each image.

USACE


USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

79


80

USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

Profile for STUDIO Gannett

ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS  

ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS