Category Archives: Commentary

Commanders’ Blogs

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!

Fort Worth District team responds to historic rainfall

Lt. Col. Clay Morgan, Deputy Commander, Fort Worth District.
Lt. Col. Clay Morgan, Deputy Commander, Fort Worth District.

Lt. Col. Clay Morgan
Deputy Commander,
Fort Worth District


Team Fort Worth, for every organization there are key events and milestones that define and reinforce its reputation and the character of its people. In May 2015, the Fort Worth District withstood such an event – the Texas Spring Flood 2015.

Many words have been used to describe that event but one that has consistently and accurately been used is ‘historic.’ Forecasts in early May indicated that the rainfall would be significant but this proved to be an understatement.

As the severe rainfall hit in mid-May, SWF immediately stood-up our Emergency Operations Center to execute all facets of emergency flood fight operations.

The SWF Emergency Operations Center was the nucleus of those operations with our Operations Division taking the lead in the field/onsite at our numerous impacted lakes.

The EOC started off on twelve hour shifts but at the height of the flood event went into round the clock operations, with representatives from our district and other USACE district offices working as a cohesive team to meet numerous requirements – operational and administrative in support of flood fight operations.

Some of you may not be familiar with our flood risk management terminology, but in its simplest terms, flood surcharge pool is the area above the flood pool and to the top of the structure.

As recently as the third week in June, twenty-three of our twenty-five Fort Worth District multi-purpose lakes, were in flood pool. Surcharge releases were made at Bardwell, Benbrook, Grapevine, Joe Pool, Lavon, Lewisville, Navarro Mills, Ray Roberts, Somerville, Sam Rayburn and Town Bluff lakes.

Four of our lakes reached record-high pool elevations as a result of Spring Flood 2015: Joe Pool – 538 ft., Lewisville – 537 ft., Navarro Mills – 442.6 ft. and Bardwell – 441 ft.

It is the character of Team Fort Worth that allowed us to:

  • Conduct increased surveillance of our reservoir projects to monitor conditions, read instrumentation and report areas of distress. This effort included 24 hour surveillance of several lake projects performed by Operations and Engineering and Construction Division personnel from within SWF, SWD, and across USACE
  • Provide round the clock support by our Water Management Section to state, county, and local Emergency Management partners at the State of Texas with flood inundation maps and shape files for rivers below our USACE projects; technical assistance on flood fight measures and provision of flood fight materials
  • Coordinate and execute the delivery and distribution of over 169,500 small sandbags, 1,100 Super Sandbags, and HESCOs by our Logistics Office and Operations Division
  • Coordinate and execute action plans and expedited repairs at lakes by our E&C, Operations, and Contracting Divisions
  • Provide technical assistance to help stabilize conditions at Padera Dam near Midthlothian, TX and technical assistance on a collapsed bridge on the Blanco River by our Dam Safety Team
  • Embedded in the Texas Operations Center in Austin to provide instant access to State resources and coordination
  • Unprecedented coordination and work with our local, state and other federal agencies partners
  • Record-breaking local, regional, national and international balanced and positive media coverage all coordinated by the SWF Public Affairs Team with 170 print and broadcast interviews conducted; over 225 media and public inquiries responded to and three major press conferences coordinated and executed

These achievements were outstanding! In the months ahead, we will have significant challenges ahead as we assess and repair dams, levees, and parks that were damaged during the floods.

Additionally, due to storm waters captured from the flood event in May and June, SWF’s recreation mission for our twenty-five lakes has been greatly impacted. In some of our lakes, it will take at least two months or more for lake levels to return to normal conservation pool levels, without any significant rainfall.

We are definitely aware of the inconvenience, as well as some economic impacts, this will have on the communities in and around our lakes in terms of less recreational opportunity over the next few months. However, flood damage reduction and public safety must and will always be our priority and is the primary reason for our multi-purpose reservoirs. Our partners, and the public, understand this and we appreciate their patience as we gradually assess, repair and ready all of our facilities to reopen as the safe recreation areas that they were prior to Spring Flood 2015.

In the coming months, my plan is to ensure that all the outstanding work before, during and after the flood event by our numerous SWF team members is formally recognized.

As the Acting Commander, I want to thank Team Fort Worth and all our many partners for a job well done and look forward to us successfully completing the recovery phase of this mission.

As we enter that recovery phase, we can also proudly welcome our new Fort Worth District Commander, Col. Calvin Hudson, his spouse Mrs. Glenda Hudson and their daughter Madison. Col. Hudson will assume command on August 14 and I look forward to celebrating that event with all of Team Fort Worth.