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St. Paul District Responds to Red River Flood

When I called the St. Paul District to get more information about the safety award to their team of Fountain City engineers, the person I talked to said that the District was coordinating the flood control effort in Fargo at the moment, and they might not be able to get back to me.

The District was indeed busy. In an April 9 report, the District’s Amanda Jones wrote: For nearly two weeks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, led 24-hour operations to reduce flood risks to Fargo, North Dakota, Moorhead, Minnesota and surrounding cities
The Red River of the North crested March 27, 2009, at a record-breaking 40.82 feet, more than 22 feet above flood stage. In the rain, snow and freezing temperatures, crews placed mounds of clay through neighborhoods and across streets, lined cities with HESCO Bastion Concertainers® and continuously inspected the miles of newly built levees and dikes… In Fargo alone, the Corps placed 21.06 miles of primary earthen levees, 4.62 miles of secondary earthen levees, 10.49 miles of sandbag levees, 5.25 mi primary HESCO® barriers, 4.51 miles of secondary HESCO® barriers, 0.32 miles of Portadam® temporary coffer systems and 0.21 miles of gravel blisters.

Meanwhile, the Corps and the dredging industry are waiting for the Office of Management and Budget to release the list of projects to be funded by stimulus money – $4.6 million allocated for Corps programs in that legislation. To do any good in the northern states this year, the funds need to be allocated immediately, and indeed, should have been released a month ago. The construction season in this area is short, and contractors will need time to mobilize. If they wait very much longer, it will be too late for this year, and President Obama’s desire to make the funding count immediately will have gone by the wayside – for these projects, at least.

I called the office at Corps Headquarters that is in charge of integration of stimulus funds into the Civil Works program and talked to Pete Luisa about when the list of projects would be available. He told me that I could quote him: “no information available.”

The President’s proposed fiscal year 2010 budget includes Corps of Engineers Civil Works funding of $5.1 billion in discretionary budget authority, which the administration intends to “significantly improve and strengthen the Nation’s water resources infrastructure.”

Finally, the President announced his intent to nominate Jo-Ellen Darcy as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Public Works, a position that oversees the Army Corps of Engineers. Darcy is the senior environmental policy advisor to the Senate Finance Committee, where she worked on energy, environmental, and conservation initiatives. She has also served as senior policy advisor and deputy staff director with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. While in those positions, she oversaw the drafting of the $23 billion Water Resources Development Act in 2007. This position is not usually filled so early in a new presidential administration. It is subject to Senate approval.

Judith Powers

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