Thursday, September 15, 2005

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

US Army Corps of Engineers'General Mission Talking Points (contd)

Read Part I

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

Discovering the Breach
We received an unconfirmed report Monday morning, 29 August 2005, from local firemen that there was breach at the 17th Street Canal. Due to its potential significance the District Commander Col Richard Wagenaar, who had weathered the storm in New Orleans, attempted to view the site on Monday afternoon. He was unable to get to the area due to high water, power lines and debris. In their attempts to get to the site, Corps officials encountered significant flooding at the I-10/610 split. Based on water height at that location it was obvious that significant flooding had occurred. They were able to validate the levee breach on Tuesday, and they began implementing a plan to fix the breach

Receiving FOIA Requests
The Corps has received a number of Freedom of Information Act requests from news media over the past several days. The requests have been for inspection reports, evacuation plans, contracts, email and correspondence. We understand the public’s need for information about the Corps of Engineers capabilities, projects and performance in responding to national emergencies. Due to the hurricane and flooding in New Orleans, we are unable to access our files in the New Orleans District Office. In the interim we will process these requests for the records that are here in the DC headquarters.

Hurricane Preparedness
We are continually monitoring the weather and are prepared to respond, if needed, should another hurricane approach the United States. Although we have more than 2,000 people deployed in support of Hurricane Katrina, we are reconstituting our response capability and have many more employees prepared for any other major storms or other natural disasters. We continue to support our military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as supporting the civil works and military programs missions at home.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses full and open competition to award standing contracts for emergency disaster response to provide services we know we will need, such as debris removal, roofing, ice and water supply. Federal agencies can award non-competitive contracts for specific work not covered by the existing contracts when an emergency demands the fastest possible response - such as plugging the breaches in New Orleans’ levee. New Orleans District issued most of the Corps’ non-competitive contracts immediately after Hurricane Katrina to firms that could quickly bring in equipment to address critical recovery operations. The Corps used limited competitions to speed the award process for time-critical follow-on tasks in cases where the service provider needs to have a proven track record for completing difficult tasks. The repair of New Orleans’ unique system of levees, pumps and canals is an example of work awarded in limited competition. Emergency contracts have been critical to the ongoing success in drawing down Hurricane Katrina flood waters. As of Sept. 10, the Corps has awarded 124 contracts for Hurricane Katrina disaster response.

The Mississippi River has now been declared open by the U.S. Coast Guard, all the way from the Head of Passes, North. The Head of Passes is very far south. That's the part of the river that's just above Southwest Pass. So right now, the only part of the river that's operating under any restrictions at all is just that little part from the main stem of the Mississippi River channel through the Southwest Pass out into the Gulf. That section is limited to daylight traffic. The USGS continues restoring Aids to Navigation (AToN) to allow night transits, giving first priority to the AToN’s that the pilots say are most needed.

The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is open from Texas to Florida using Baptiste Collette, as an alternative to the IHNC. The GIWW reach from Baptiste Collette to Pascagoula is limited to 9.5' draft, versus the 12' authorized. Caution is recommended for transit.

Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC) Lock is operational but not operating due to bridge closures and sunken barges. The contracting firm of Boh Brothers is continuing to remove sunken vessels. Anticipate removal by mid-week.

Mississippi River Gulf Outlet is closed to deep draft vessels. Inland portion will serve as an alternative route to GIWW due to closure of IHNC for shallow draft vessels. Preliminary surveys indicate controlling depth of 27'.

Port Fourchon sustained significant damage, but is operating to a limited extent. Sunken vessels are not blocking the channel.

Corps preliminary surveys are under way for Atchafalaya, Houma, and other channels. NOAA is continuing its surveys of the Mississippi River to verify Corps centerline survey results.

Tiger Pass is shoaled to less than 6'. This channel, authorized to 14' provides a shorter route for vessels traveling to the west from the Mississippi River near the mouth. Primarily used by fishing and supply vessels. The Corps is preparing contract to dredge.

GWOT effect on Mission Capability
The Corps' 35,000 employees have a long history of volunteerism and dedication to assisting our nation in times of need, both at home and abroad. Our overall capability to respond to this and other disasters at home is not diminished by our support to the Global War on Terror.

Rebuilding New Orleans
At this time, the Corps is focused on its missions of disaster relief, recovery and unwatering New Orleans and surrounding areas. Local and state officials will lead the future discussions for rebuilding New Orleans.

Future Funding
Recently, Congress approved a large funding package for hurricane relief with $400 million for Corps missions separate from our FEMA ones. The President and Congress are currently considering additional funding to assist in the relief and recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina.

At the request of the Administration, the Corps of Engineers is providing input regarding the restoration of flood damage reduction infrastructure as well as the inland and deep draft navigation system.

Corps Support to Louisiana
In support of FEMA, the Corps of Engineers will be assessing and repairing public facilities (schools, libraries, fire stations, etc.) for the state of Louisiana. This mission is estimated at $200 million.

Corps Team in Mississippi
Our MRFO web site is now up and growing at The site includes a Media Services section with names, contacts, and sign up for e-Media alerts. Suggestions welcome!

The Army Corps of Engineers’ Task Force Hope Mississippi has about 400 personnel from around the nation focused on recovery operations in the Mississippi Recovery Field Office (RFO). This number could eventually reach 1000 at peak recovery as the Vicksburg District sets up a district-size team to execute assigned FEMA missions.

The Corps mission in Mississippi is now heavily focused on recovery operations as requirements for power, water and ice support have dropped significantly with local systems coming back on line.

Debris Removal
FEMA estimates that there are currently about 18 to 20 million cubic yards of debris in the hurricane impacted area of Mississippi. This equates to 200 football fields piled 50 feet high. It will take about 8 months to remove it from the streets, and roughly a year and a half to completely dispose of it.

Right now we are moving roughly 100,000 cubic yards of debris per day, but we are ramping up and expect that to increase. Removal is underway in 6 counties (Jackson, Jones, Stone, Forrest, George and Hancock).We are expecting additional requests from cities and counties. Each county or municipality must agree to USACE debris removal support before it can be received.

The Corps of Engineers is not alone in this process. Disposal efforts are closely coordinated with the local community and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Coast Guard among others.

The EPA and Coast Guard are working on targeting large scale hazardous materials, while the Corps is working on clearing debris on the roads and selectively removing hazardous materials as they are discovered.
Hazardous materials that end up at our reduction sites inadvertently will be culled out and placed in separate containment areas. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality monitors our work and issues permits for reduction sites.

Temporary Roofing
Over 5200 requests for Operation Blue Roof have been received in the past few days. Over 200 roofs were repaired in the past 24 hours. More than 100 crews are now working. Estimates are that 23,000 roof repairs will be required. About 1000 work orders are about to be issued to contractors.

At peak, several hundred roofs per day will be repaired. Plastic staging operations are in Hattiesburg and Gulfport. Operation Blue Roof Sign Up Centers are now open in Jackson, Harrison, Hancock, Forrest, Stone, Lamar, Marion, Jefferson Davis, and Pearl River counties.

Temporary Housing
Temporary housing is being handled using a national/regional approach through the FEMA Housing Area Command.

Technical Assistance
RFO technical experts are providing technical assistance as request from the state through FEMA.

Water/Waste Water Restoration
Forty-six systems are known to need assessment. We have begun assessment of the state’s prioritized list. A 10-12 person team from the Environmental Protection Agency will join the USACE team at Keesler in supporting this FEMA mission.

Temporary Classroom Sites & Emergency Facilities
USACE has received a mission assignment to place approximately 450 temporary classrooms on school property in the impacted areas. This mission also tasks the Corps provide portable buildings for public facilities such as fire stations, police stations, and emergency centers. Current focus is coordinating with the state to identify and prioritize structures.

Today’s Vignette: Keeping the Lights on in Biloxi

The local power station in Biloxi faced a potential problem after Hurricane Katrina. The local power plant needed the damaged Popps Ferry Bridge opened to supply coal needed for power generation for the area. A united team from USACE, Bureau of Reclamation, Harrison County, the City of Biloxi, and a professor from the University of Wyoming developed a creative plan to safely raise the bridge and keep power flowing to the area.