During late August of this year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was knee-deep supporting the country with mission assignments that USACE is familiar with, such as wildfires, floods, and hurricanes. One unexpected crisis ramped up USACE for an enterprise-wide, unified response to a not-so-familiar mission assignment: drinking water supply.
The upper Pearl River, which courses through north Jackson, Mississippi, and supplies water to the Ross Barnett Reservoir, experienced flooding that prompted USACE’s Vicksburg District to activate its emergency operations center (EOC) at level 2 on Aug. 27 to provide direct and technical assistance to the state of Mississippi, affected counties, partners, and sponsors.
The Vicksburg District will be the long-term project manager and will continue to support Jackson when the FEMA mission assignment ended in October. Katy Breaux, a district senior project manager with experience in environmental infrastructure programs, will be the continuity for the implementation of the playbook.
“Sections 592 for the state of Mississippi and 219 [Water Resources Development Act of 1999 as amended in 2007] projects specifically for the COJ as well as Planning Assistance to States program under general investigations authority are solutions that have been identified to help.”
Not only did USACE work as an enterprise to deliver water supply solutions, but something even greater was realized from working as a whole-of-government team.
“We strengthened our relationships with our state and federal partners, working side by side. Edith [U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Environmental Laboratory Research Environmental Engineer Edith Martinez-Guerra, Ph.D.
] was doing water quality samples and working with the EPA to discuss what needed to be repaired. Working closely with FEMA and the Department of Health, those with the expertise who’ve been doing surveys on the plants for years, was instrumental in the level of federal support that went to help people,” Breaux concluded.