Category Archives: Little Rock Employee Spotlight

Little Rock Employee Spotlight

The flowing evolution of water control

By Miles Brown

The laws of physics and fluid dynamics have not changed over the millenniums. Water still looks for the path of least resistance flowing from higher elevations toward sea level. But how engineers manage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer reservoirs across the Little Rock District continues to evolve with every major high-water event. One person who has seen that evolution first hand for more than 28 years is Janis Jones, a hydraulic engineer with the Little Rock District’s Reservoir Control Section. “When I started in the Little Rock District, we used dial-up modems to download water level data every four hours and that data was loaded into our system via very cumbersome “automated” processes,” recalls Jones. “Now data is collected in almost real time, processed, and loaded into our file systems with more modern network technology and truly automated processes which allows our engineers more time to focus on the most important task – the operation of our reservoirs.”

1992
1992

 

Every day, the Little Rock water control professionals manage 12 reservoirs from southern Missouri to southwest Arkansas ensuring the congressionally authorized purposes of each lake are maximized. All Corps lakes within the Little Rock District have one purpose in common – to reduce the risk of down-stream flooding. Some have hydropower requirements and others supply drinking water to thousands of Arkansans. Two lakes have minimum flow requirements, and there are provisions for recreation at most of the District’s lakes. With all of these interests vying for the water stored behind Corps dams, the engineers managing the releases have their hands full. The water control mission really reaches a fever pitch during high-water years. This year levels in all 12 Little Rock District reservoirs rose rapidly in the late spring and early summer as three waves of storms dumped record rains across the region in a matter of just a few weeks. The upper White River lakes experienced major rises due to the runoff, and crested at levels that represented 83 percent of the available system flood storage in mid-June.  Peak river levels in the downstream White River valley were greatly reduced as the runoff was stored in the lakes. Unfortunately this was only the most recent flood event in the White River basin. “In 2011, major flooding occurred on the White River and the problems were made worse by the very high levels on the Mississippi River,” said Jones. “The water we had to release from reservoirs upstream had nowhere to go at the confluence of the White and Mississippi rivers.” In the Little River system in southwest Arkansas, DeQueen Lake, which discharges into Millwood Lake, set a new pool of record this year cresting at 472.8 on June 3. In addition, Millwood Lake, which feeds the Little River, and eventually the Red River, set a new pool of record cresting June 14 at 282.9 feet. That is 24 feet above the top of its conservation pool. “This year, we held back as much water as possible at Millwood because the Red River was above flood stage for weeks. We worked with two sister Corps districts to coordinate our releases and minimize the risk of floods for communities along the Red River.” Reservoir control professionals have been managing water levels at District lakes for more than 60 years, but several of the flood events over the last quarter century have approached record levels.

Jan Jones - mid to early 90's
Jan Jones – mid to early 90’s

 

“Every high water event is different to manage as we implement the water control plans and use our engineering judgment to adjust operations at each of the projects to hold flood waters back and then release the stored water as channel capacity allows,” explained Jones. “The heavy rains across Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri created some of the highest flows we have experienced on the MKARNS (McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System),” said Jones. “We had not seen a flood event this late in the year in my 28 years.” Arkansas River flows peaked at more than 370,000 cubic feet per second and sustained high flows continued for almost three months because of the large volumes of flood storage being released from reservoirs in Oklahoma and the uncontrolled runoff in the river basin. The volume of water that flowed down the river during this historic flood event was the largest since the navigation channel was completed in 1971. One of the essential missions for the Corps is keeping key stakeholders and the public informed about lake levels, river flows and dam releases. To help emergency responders and community planners prepare for possible future flood events, the District Reservoir Control team members conduct what they like to call “Water Management 101” sessions. “We started Water Management 101 events back in 2008 just before one of the major flood events on the White River,” recounts Jones. “Now we conduct these events each year and try to visit all the major river communities across the District.” Now that Jan Jones is winding down her decades-long tenure as a key team member managing the water storage and flows of the District, she has taken a little time to look back at the years and the major high-water events. “My hope is that we have documented these historical events and lessons learned well enough so our experiences can be passed on to the less seasoned engineers just starting their careers in Reservoir Control,” said Jones. “It is cool to see the smart, young professionals eagerly soaking-up the knowledge. It is very rewarding to realize that they are eager, anxious to use the available cutting-edge technology, and more than capable to take over the reins and keep the mission of water control and protecting people, communities and our infrastructure on track.”

2015
2015

Half a Century of Dedication, Duty to Our Nation

Dr. Randy Hathaway, Little Rock District’s Deputy Engineer, recounts more than 20 years of dedicated to the Corps during Henry Hollins’ retirement ceremony in Little Rock this spring.  Hollins, seated next to his wife Eva Hollins, coupled more than 20 years of civil service with 30-plus years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force for a total of 51 years of total federal service.
Dr. Randy Hathaway, Little Rock District’s Deputy Engineer, recounts more than 20 years of dedicated to the Corps during Henry Hollins’ retirement ceremony in Little Rock this spring. Hollins, seated next to his wife Eva Hollins, coupled more than 20 years of civil service with 30-plus years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force for a total of 51 years of total federal service.

By Miles Brown
Little Rock District
Public Affairs Office

Retiring after more than 20 years of service to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is no small feat and deserves proper recognition for dedicated service. Retiring for the second time in a career that spanned 51 years of total federal service commands respect and admiration from most if not all who hear the story.

Henry Hollins, a facilities specialist for the Little Rock District, retired from active duty with the U.S. Air Force as a Chief Master Sergeant after 30 plus years of honorable service. For some that would have been a satisfying and fitting end to their full-time working days – but not for Hollins. He soon found a new way to serve our Nation.

He started his second career with the Corps in 1995 shortly after his retirement from active duty and never missed a step. According to Dr. Randy Hathaway, the District’s Deputy Engineer, from the moment Hollins started working in Little Rock he was constantly moving.

“One thing you could always count on from Henry was a smile and a good morning sir – if you could catch him,” said Hathaway. “He would move so quickly from one office to the next that it was almost like he was running all day. And I don’t remember a time when he used the elevators in our seven-story building – he always took the stairs.

“What I will forever remember about Henry is his attitude,” added Hathaway. “We could all learn a lesson about how to go about your work, your day and your life from the way Henry approached every task. He arrived every morning with a positive attitude and tried his very best to make everyone here feel important and valued.”

Hollins’ duties brought him in contact with almost every member of the District, and many expressed their appreciation and admiration for having known him over the last two decades and beyond.

One of the guests in attendance at this second retirement recounted his first meeting with then Chief Master Sergeant Hollins more than 25 years earlier.

Dean Erickson, Little Rock District’s Chief of Logistics, presents a crystal Corps Castle to Henry Hollins in appreciation for his service and dedication to duty.  Hollins served as the District’s facility manager for more than 20 years.
Dean Erickson, Little Rock District’s Chief of Logistics, presents a crystal Corps Castle to Henry Hollins in appreciation for his service and dedication to duty. Hollins served as the District’s facility manager for more than 20 years.

Retiring after more than 20 years of service to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is no small feat and deserves proper recognition for dedicated service. Retiring for the second time in a career that spanned 51 years of total federal service commands respect and admiration from most if not all who hear the story.

“Chief Hollins made a big impression during my early years as a second lieutenant,” said A.J. Brown, a District contract specialist. “He taught me how to be an Air Force officer and much more.”

Another guest attempted to sum-up Hollins’ life and career in one word, “honorable.”

“Henry conducts himself honorably in every aspect of his life and work,” said Sandra Easter, Chief of the District’s Contracting Division. “I believe he is the most honorable person I have ever met.”

When it was finally time for the man of the hour to say a few words, in typical Hollins fashion, he was humble and thankful.

“I want to thanks each of you for coming out today and making the last 20 years the most wonderful and memorable of my career,” said Hollins. “I had the privilege of coming to work every day with some of the best people in the Corps. Thanks again for your thoughtfulness. I will truly miss all of you.”

Many in attendance at Hollins’ final retirement ceremony and those who could not be in attendance wish him the best that life has to offer and a slower paced life – although most do not think he will ever slowdown.