Building a stronger Coastal Texas everyday

By Col. Richard P. Pannell
District Engineer and Commanding Officer
USACE Galveston District

Col. Richard P. Pannell
Col. Richard P. Pannell, USACE Galveston District

After heavy rains and flooding throughout our district area, we encountered our first storm of the season when Tropical Storm Bill arrived in mid June. Not only did this storm mark the beginning of Hurricane Season in the Atlantic, it served as an important reminder of our essential mission of protecting against the loss of life and property and of the critical need to be prepared for a natural disaster. Our emergency management team did a stellar job ramping up for both events and leveraging knowledge management tools including our Wiki site and GIS to maintain situational awareness and informed decision making.

During these events, I was able to inspect operations at the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) and Brazos River Floodgates (BRFG). Vessel and barge operations at the BRFG and Colorado River Locks were impacted by river velocities much higher than normal, due to heavy rainfall throughout the watersheds. Both of our lock teams did a fantastic job managing traffic along the GIWW under very challenging conditions while maintaining a focus on safety.

I also visited Addicks and Barker reservoirs where our project team was busily working to manage water levels and engage the public on the potential flooding impacts in Houston. Additionally, our survey teams responded quickly by immediately getting out on our navigation projects to inspect the impacts of flooding and storm damage to provide vital survey information. I am extremely proud of the dedication and focused efforts of not only our teams on the ground, but also the technical teams providing continuous monitoring of conditions.

While we never hope for these events, they allowed the district to make significant improvements in how we collect, analyze and share information. In a successful test of our emerging knowledge management initiatives, we were able to provide near real-time, geo-referenced video and pictures to the district’s Emergency Operations Center, where it was posted and linked to the district’s Wiki page and immediately available to the region and enterprise. I hope you will take the opportunity to see how these tools can improve how you manage information, capture lessons learned and share best practices.

We held our annual Engineer Day Ceremony and inducted David B. Campbell, former chief of Engineering Branch, into the district’s Gallery of Distinguished Employees in a formal ceremony at the district’s Jadwin Building headquarters. We named the Regulator, Employee, Supervisor and Engineer of the Year respectively: Jill C. Wiggins, Rondal J. (Jason) Shreve, Joseph L. King and Matthew S. (Scott) Leimer. The district also presented service awards to employees for 1,035 total years of service combined. I am honored and privileged to be associated with such a dedicated workforce!

Additionally, the district was recognized on a national level when it was named the winner of two Public Relations Society of America Silver Anvil awards and one national PRSA Award of Excellence, respectively, in the Community Relations, Multicultural Public Relations and Integrated Communications categories. Entries were for “Deconstructing Dams’ Designation: Army addresses aging infrastructure in nation’s fourth largest city,” and for “Corps in the Classroom: Building Tomorrow’s Leaders.” The PRSA Silver Anvil awards recognize outstanding achievement in strategic public relations planning and implementation.

I want to sincerely thank each of you for your continued dedicated efforts to support our critical missions and projects under the dynamic conditions we face every day in Coastal Texas. Whether it’s responding to natural crises or providing technical assistance to our state and local partners, you continue to maintain the great reputation that the district has enjoyed for over 140 years! Every time I’m engaged by our partners or the public, I hear incredibly positive stories about the great work you are doing for the region and the nation.

We are building a stronger Coastal Texas everyday!