Wednesday, September 14, 2005

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Daily Key Messages and General Mission Talking Points Part I

I remain most appreciative of the kindness of Dr Todd Stong to share this information with me. “You will be impressed with what the Corps is doing and how little of it seems of interest to the media, mired with their political agendas. You will also sense again the value of military leadership to be early on the scene when faced with a disaster…” He stated in his email message to me. I have had the pleasure and honor to blog about Dr stong, a retired volunteer engineer. He is about to undertake a bridge construction project in rural Eastern Nigeria by later this year.

Posted below are series of high content update-statements from US Army Corp of Engineers on progress made thus far since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the US Gulf coast. The statement posted in this blog was released on Tuesday, 13 September 2005. The scale of the aftermath devastation is staggering, likewise the efforts to de-water the city of New Orleans, and restore infrastructures in Biloxi, Gulfport, Mobile and other cities affected. This statement speaks volume to all these efforts.

A big Kudos to the US Army Corps of Engineers!


US Army Corps of Engineers' Daily Messages Part I
- Released 09/13/2005

1. The Overall Corps Mission
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is continuing to work primarily in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, carrying out a wide variety of missions in response to Hurricane Katrina. In addition to our efforts to get the water out of New Orleans we are also providing services throughout the affected areas to include providing ice, water and temporary power; as well as debris removal and temporary roofing.

Our three priorities are:
First, supporting efforts to save lives and find people,
Second, sustaining lives (water and shelter) and
Third, setting conditions for recovery (cleanup, restoring infrastructure and navigation).

Corps employees are empowered to make decisions regarding hurricane relief support on the spot as long as the decision is lawful, ethical and the employee is willing to be accountable for the action. This has helped keep things moving in a time of difficult communication.

Currently we have nearly 2,000 Corps employees deployed in the affected areas and our missions are totaling $2.9 billion, of which more than $2.8 billion are missions from FEMA and more than $36 million are for Flood Control Coastal Emergencies.

Other Mission Statistics:

· More than 54 million liters of water delivered
· More than 216 million pounds of ice delivered
· 159 generators delivered
· More than 300 roofs installed; 51,000 projects to take place
· More than 560,000 cubic yards of debris removed

2. Un-Watering Progress in New Orleans
Working with the city of New Orleans and private contractors, the Army Corps of Engineers continues to make steady progress on pumping out floodwaters from the city of New Orleans and immediate vicinity into Lake Ponchartrain. The number of pumps that are operational at any given time is continually changing. On average, we are pumping 11.8 billion gallons of water per day, or the equivalent of an Olympic-sized swimming pool every 4.8 seconds.

Original estimates for completing the un-watering of the city have recently been revised. Several factors have contributed to this revision: improved pumping capacity and efficiency, additional pumps, intentional breaches in the levee system and better field data and hydrological modeling. As of today, we estimate the overall un-watering effort will be completed in early to mid-October. A breakdown by parish is provided:

New Orleans Parish, the week of October 2
New Orleans East Parish, the week of October 8
Chalmette Parish, the week of October 8
Plaquemines East Parish, the week of October 18, and
Plaquemines West, the week of October 18.
The estimates are based on normal seasonal rainfall.

It is important to note that the un-watering effort will remove most, but not all the water. There will be some isolated pockets of water the will remain. However, these pockets of water should not hamper recovery efforts such as debris removal, structural assessments and restoration of critical services.

3. Finding Human Remains during Work
The US Army Corps of Engineers is sympathetic to the tragic loss of life that occurred in New Orleans and throughout other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi as a result of Hurricane Katrina. As Corps personnel continue recovery operations throughout the affected areas, they may come discover human remains. If this is the case, Corps personnel will handle the remains in a dignified and respectful manner and will contact the appropriate authorities.

4. Water Quality Issues Related to Pumping Water into Lake Ponchartrain
Everyone is concerned about the quality of water being moved from New Orleans to Lake Ponchartrain, but our first priority is the health and safety of residents of New Orleans and all responders as we get the water out of the city. We are working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure human health and safety as we drain the water and have received approval from EPA to move the water following the agency's normal practices in emergencies. EPA is monitoring and testing the water. As water drains, we anticipate there will be times when we may need to take additional measures, and we are working with EPA on this right now. Any questions as to water quality should be referred to the Office of Water, U.S. EPA.

5. Corps Team in New Orleans
During and after disasters, the Corps of Engineers “victim district team concept” is often put into place. Colonel Richard Wagenaar, commander and district engineer of the New Orleans District, has shifted his attention to reconstituting the district, and Colonel Duane Gapinski of the Rock Island District has taken the lead on un-watering the city of New Orleans. The district has now accounted for nearly every one of its 1193 employees. Many employees are available and waiting to return to work and 75-100 are actually working at the emergency operations centers. The plan has three phases: (1) immediately place essential staff at existing offices in Vicksburg, Lafayette and St. Louis or by telework; (2) place other employees when space and IM/IT is available in Vicksburg, Jackson, Clinton, MS, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and other sites or by telework; and (3) transition to the New Orleans office when the facility is available.

Read Part II of the News Release