Col. Richard Pannell

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

Fellow Coastal Custodians,

The summer season has flown by quickly! But while summer may be coming to a close, the workload for the Galveston District continues to increase. As we enter the end of the fiscal year, we remain committed to the completion of many key milestones including contract awards, sponsor agreements and study updates. Over the summer we’ve remained laser focused on our Texas Coast strategy. The results of your efforts have been significant to our sponsors, stakeholders and to the American taxpayer. I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of the Galveston District and want to highlight a few examples of what I consider to be important projects, programs and activities in support of our nation’s goals and strategies.

The district continues to deliver on its mission to support navigation in the number two maritime state in the nation. Despite the challenges of unanticipated shoaling from flood events, the entire team has delivered the best maintenance dredging program in the country. Our sponsors up and down the coast are beyond satisfied with the level of service our channels provide the many industries that ensure economic vibrancy and energy security for the United States. There are still a few dredging contracts to award, but we have attained a high level of execution in our program all the while supporting small business goals and being excellent stewards of federal funds.

One great example of stewardship is our Beneficial Use Program. We are partnering with the Galveston Park Board, City of Galveston and the Texas General Land Office to support a major beach expansion representing the largest sand nourishment project on the Texas Gulf Coast this summer. The project will use 725,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from the Galveston Ship Channel to create 20 blocks of additional beach along the Galveston seawall between 61st and 81st streets. This project allows the Corps to work with a cost-sharing sponsor to place dredged material along the coastline supporting a long-term strategy to build public beaches, protect community assets from storm damage and protect coastal resources.

Another key effort for the district is protecting resources in the coastal zone to include reducing risks to infrastructure and lives through our Flood Risk Management (FRM) program. As you know, the team has been working hard to deliver on one of the biggest FRM projects in the nation: the Addicks & Barker Dam Safety Mega-Project. We look to award a contract that will kick off the five-year construction project at Addicks and Barker beginning as early as September 2015. Work will include installation of a new outlet structure and intake tower, steel-lined conduits, a parabolic chute slab, stilling basin, cutoff wall and downstream filter. This project significantly reduces the risk of flooding to central Houston – the fourth largest city in the country.

As we plan for the future, the district is heavily engaged on building and expanding a portfolio of interagency projects that support navigation improvement, reduce coastal storm damage and place emphasis on restoration of ecosystems. Several of our largest studies delivered on key milestones this month to include Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay, Coastal Texas and the Houston Ship Channel study. These studies represent three of the largest scale projects in the feasibility study portfolio of the entire Corps. All eyes are on the Galveston District as we seek to gain policy exemptions from both the Army and Congress to move forward on two enormous projects: Coastal Texas and the Houston Ship Channel Study. Coastal Texas will deliver a comprehensive plan with implementable recommendations to reduce the threat of storm damage across Coastal Texas and the Houston Ship Channel study will improve the efficiency and economic competiveness of the number one port in the nation for foreign tonnage.

For our projects and studies to be successful, we must have strong partnerships with our sponsors and stakeholders across the region. In late August, we hosted a one-day Stakeholder Partnering Forum to provide non-federal sponsors, customers and agency partners an avenue to collaborate on best practices regarding programs ranging from environmental to flood risk management, dredging the Texas coast and regulatory oversight of U.S. waters. This semi-annual partnering forum enables us to build on previous workshops. It allows us to hear directly from our sponsors and stakeholders on issues that are critical to the successful execution of projects and to move forward with integrated solutions. This forum also afforded stakeholders a venue to understand and interact on the latest information about our programs, projects, business processes and capabilities.

Not only do we need the support of stakeholders for our projects, but we also need the support of the public. We have many forms of public outreach, but one of our best examples is our Water Safety Program. Recently our team at the Colorado River Locks coordinated a project together with Bay City High School students to create signs to alert the public about the need to wear life jackets when they are in, on or around water. The signs are located in Matagorda, Texas, to warn the public that they are entering a “Life Jacket Zone.” With the Corps being the leading provider of outdoor recreation on all federally managed public lands in the United States, we’re working diligently to promote an increase in water safety awareness and to prevent drowning. These safety signs will remind mariners traversing the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to be safe on the water and to always wear their personal flotation devices. As I mentioned earlier, all eyes are on the Galveston District and there is keen interest in the work we are doing in Coastal Texas. In the first week of September, we have the honor of hosting the 92nd Coastal Engineering Research Board for USACE. This is an incredible opportunity for the district to showcase our efforts on delivering innovative solutions to some of the nation’s toughest challenges. This year’s theme is Coastal Navigation: Driving the U.S. Economy by Integrating Transportation Infrastructure with Natural Coastal Systems, and there is no better place to demonstrate this than Coastal Texas.

 

Col. Richard Pannell
District Commander, USACE Galveston
BUILDING STRONG