USACE Galveston District: 2013 Year in Review
In a year filled with budget cuts, hiring freezes, a reduction in staffing and a government shutdown, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District worked diligently to increase understanding of the Corps’ mission of providing vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen the nation’s security, energize the economy and reduce risks from disasters.
During 2013, staff worked diligently to instill confidence with the public and remain open and transparent as well as to meet and exceed the USACE goals and objectives and bolster the Department of the Army’s community relations efforts and accomplished the following:
Texas Coast: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District was no exception to the careful oversight of taxpayers, who scrutinized every dollar the federal government spent during the 2013 year – a year filled with federal budget cuts, hiring freezes, reduction in district services and a government shutdown. Realizing the importance of conveying to the public its relevancy and the impact its services have on strengthening the nation’s security, energizing the economy and reducing risks from disasters, staff launched a campaign to engage the public, increase awareness of the efforts along the Texas coast and build on the reputation and relevancy. Throughout the year, staff engaged with stakeholders and partners more than 50 times, held 14 public meetings, presented at nearly 20 events and provided five site tours of facilities. Combined, staff’s aggressive engagement and outreach efforts reached approximately 13 million through web, print and broadcast avenues.
STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields are growing rapidly; however, the U.S. is not producing enough students to keep up with demand. With 19 percent of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 36,600 workforce qualifying for immediate retirement and 22 percent for early retirement, the world’s largest public engineering firm struggles with a shrinking pool of graduates who are critical to mission success. The USACE Galveston District team worked diligently to launch an aggressive STEM Inspiration Campaign to garner support from nationally-recognized partners, including Emmy-winning Actress Mayim Bialik, Ph.D., (The Big Bang Theory & Blossom), and spark students’ interest in STEM careers, engage millions in targeted demographics and increase awareness. Throughout the year, staff actively engaged in nearly 40 recruitment, development and retention events, signed two cooperation agreements with a Hispanic-serving institution and a Historical Black College and University to commit the two organizations to work together to enhance opportunities for minority students throughout the Corps and worked with community leaders to leverage support from STEM professionals to increase awareness of the STEM challenge facing the nation.
Social Media: USACE Galveston District employees are often the best advocates, commonly on the front lines telling the story. Wanting to put a face to the organization, as part of a larger Community Relations Campaign to maximize outreach efforts, engage the public and tell the Corps’ story, staff used Facebook and Twitter to instantly connect with the community, interact and learn of concerns. Social media quickly became an integral component of the district’s communications program as it provided senior leadership with the ability to provide timely and accurate information about the Corps’ activities to the public, keep Soldiers and civilians informed and build relations within the communities.
Reduction in levels of services: Following the reduction in the USACE fiscal year 2013 nationwide inland navigation budget, the USACE Galveston District commander tasked the district with developing a community relations campaign to educate recreational boaters who frequent the Colorado River Locks and/or the Brazos River Floodgates about the organization’s agency-wide initiative to reduce the wear and tear on navigation lock equipment and gates to prolong the life of the systems and make available more operating dollars to address ongoing maintenance needs. Staff’s initiatives informed a potential audience of more than 600,000 residents along the Texas coast about the district’s adjustment to operations at Brazos River Floodgates, Colorado River Locks (which began April 1, 2013) while incorporating key information that informed audiences of district’s navigation mission and economic contributions to the nation.
Ecosystem restoration: The district commander tasked staff to increase Texas coastal residents’ awareness and understanding of the district’s ecosystem restoration mission, economic contributions to the nation and efforts to employ environmentally and economically responsible ways to use dredged materials to benefit local communities and improve eroded coastlines through beach nourishment and beneficial use programs. Combined efforts resulted in reaching an audience of approximately 1.3 million through various media outlets to promote and raise awareness about the district’s ecosystem restoration mission and its economic contributions to the nation.
Water Safety: In response to an alarming number of water-related deaths at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recreational areas, the USACE Galveston District continued to engage an aggressive water safety community outreach and public information campaign to educate those who use its facilities, enhance the commitment of community leaders to promote public safety and reduce public fatalities. The innovative campaign included partnering with nationally recognized water-safety organizations and using social media to maximize outreach efforts to ultimately exceed campaign objectives and contribute to a zero increase in water-related fatalities in the district; formed partnerships with Bass Pro Shops, Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark and Telemundo; the 83rd Legislature of the State of Texas designated April as Water Safety Month for 10 consecutive years beginning in 2013 and inspired other communities to form water safety coalitions and media campaigns to include Bexar County (which enlisted USACE Galveston District’s Kris Brown to assist with its first April Pool’s Day” campaign, aimed at promoting water safety and preventing drowning deaths).
Engineering & Construction
Completed Construction: Bayport Ship Channel maintenance dredging work was completed in August 2013. The project consists of dredging of the entire ship channel to improve navigation along the channel.
Completed Construction: Kingsville Border Patrol Station was completed in April 2013 for a total cost of $35.7 million. The project provides a 325-person Border Patrol Station in Kingsville, Texas. The station is on 60 acres and includes a main station, vehicle maintenance shops, short stay dog kennel, fuel island, vehicle wash rack, warehouse, covered parking and 300,000 square feet of concrete paving.
Continued Construction: Corpus Christi Ship Channel La Quinta Extension includes dredging 6.6 million cubic yards of soil to create a 7,300-feet-long by 400-feet-wide by 41-feet-deep navigation channel. The dredged material is used to construct a 200-acre beneficial use site (BUS 6) for erosion protection and habitat creation. The emergent levee on the south side of BUS 6 will include 83,000 tons of rip-rap armoring.
Continue Construction: Primary Fence (PF) 225 Fence Gates project is a $10.9 million project. The total project entails the design and construction of automated gates along the primary border fence constructed as part of the PF 225 program in the Rio Grande Valley Patrol Sector.
Continued Construction: Buffalo Bayou and Tributaries, Addicks and Barker Dams conduit and Parabolic Spillways Repairs project was awarded in August 2013. This project, when completed, will assist in controlling the flow of water at each conduit and will include installation of steel plating on the spillway of both the Addicks and Barker Dams outlet structures.
Half Moon Reef Estuary – A Nation Wide permit was issued Sept. 13, 2012, which will serve as National Environmental Policy Act documentation. Construction will begin and end in fiscal year 2014. The goal of this project is to create 12 acres of three-dimensional sub tidal reef to maximize the colonization of reef dependent species such as oysters, shrimp, crabs and mussels.
Dredging Contracts Awarded: Houston Ship Channel-Bayport and Houston Ship Channel Redfish to Beacon 78; Houston Ship Channel Barbours Cut Terminal; Freeport Entrance and Jetty Channel; Galveston Harbor Hopper Dredging and Houston Ship Channel Bolivar Roads to Redfish; Houston Ship Channel-Carpenters to Greens Bayou; GIWW High Island to Bolivar; Freeport Harbor-Inner Channel and Turning Basin; Sabine Neches Waterway-Neches River Channel; Brownsville Ship Channel and U.S. Coast Guard dredging.
Brazos Island Harbor: Prepared draft report for deepening and widening of the 22-mile deep-draft-navigation waterway located at Brownsville, Texas, to improve navigation.
Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay – Re-scoping study alternatives to develop a comprehensive coastal protection and restoration plan along the upper Texas Coast using the new criteria in the “Planning Smart Guide.”
Addicks and Barker Dam Safety Modification Study was approved and project moved into design phase where the 35 percent design and a Value Engineering Study were completed.
Press Release, December 17, 2013