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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

USACE Galveston District to host 92nd Coastal Engineering Research Board meeting

GALVESTON, Texas (Aug. 25, 2015) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District, will host the 92nd Coastal Engineering Research Board (CERB) meeting Sept. 1-3, 2015, at the district’s headquarters buildi

CERB Meeting
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District, will host the 92nd Coastal Engineering Research Board (CERB) meeting Sept. 1-3, 2015, at the district’s headquarters building in Galveston, Texas.

ng in Galveston, Texas.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the U.S. Gulf region’s engineering challenges with nature, and nature-based systems to enhance the resilience of coastal systems and marine transportation infrastructure and sustain the values they produce. 

“Both the Texas and national economies rely heavily on the Texas gulf coast,” said Col. Richard P. Pannell, USACE Galveston District commander. “It’s imperative that we strike a balance between industrial expansion and the health of our ecosystem, working to ensure it can withstand and recover from future disasters, while identifying research and development needs to enable the Corps to deliver innovative solutions to meet these challenges and opportunities.”

According to Pannell, the Corps continues to play a vital role in supporting waterborne transportation across the nation and internationally on movement of energy products and a wide range of other manufactured goods. This principally occurs through both deep and shallow draft commercial navigation activities. 

“Our Texas navigation channels are nestled in unique and significant coastal habitats along the coast that we must restore and protect as nationally-valued resources,” said Pannell. “In direct relation, we are experiencing well over $100 billion in non-federal investment for coastal infrastructure improvement to keep up with energy product delivery demand.”

According to Pannell, that investment is driving community development at the coast, which is an emerging coastal flood risk with rising sea levels and persistent hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico. Maintaining the environmental health of coastal wetlands is crucial to ensuring the continued success of many of the nation’s vital industries. 

“What the Corps does now to manage coastal sediments regionally and engineer with nature will increase the potential that we will realize a rich spectrum of economic and ecosystem service benefits, which can be derived from planned and implemented natural and nature-based features that function seamlessly with engineered structures,” said Dr. Edmond Russo, USACE Galveston District’s deputy district engineer for programs and project management. “Since our actions will shape the future for a generation on America’s energy coast, it is compelling for the federal family to take stock of the opportunities unfolding here to shape the course of action from a regional perspective while managing civil works program execution across mission business lines and being good stewards of the environment.”

The Corps is advancing high priority coastal storm risk management studies on the Texas coast to address these problems and needs, said Russo. 

“The key for us is understanding and planning for sustainable community resiliency, risk reduction to life and property, and ecosystem restoration at integrated systems scale across multiple water resources management objectives, driven by our partners and stakeholders,” said Russo.

According to Jose E. Sanchez, SES, PE, director of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory and alternate designated federal officer of the Coastal Engineering Research Board, the CERB provides guidance to the Army’s Chief of Engineers pertaining to the field of coastal engineering research and development for the benefit of the Army and the nation.

The board meets semi-annually around the U.S. coastline and the Great Lakes on a rotating basis.
For more information, please contact Dr. Russo at 

The USACE Galveston District was established in 1880 as the first engineer district in Texas to oversee river and harbor improvements. The district is directly responsible for maintaining more than 1,000 miles of channel, including 250 miles of deep draft and 750 miles of shallow draft as well as the Colorado River Locks and Brazos River Floodgates. Its main missions include navigation, ecosystem restoration, emergency management, flood risk management and regulatory oversight. The Corps also supports a robust Regulatory Program that interacts with the local community through a variety of public outreach opportunities.

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The official U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division publication