The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, recently awarded a contract for constructing the fifth levee reach on the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain (WSLP) Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction project. This contract will construct approximately 1.0 miles of the 17.5-mile-long levee system that will provide 100-year level risk reduction to the area primarily in St. John the Baptist, St. James and St. Charles Parish.
The contract for WSLP-106 was awarded on September 12, 2023, to Dynamic Group, LLC, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This section of the levee is approximately 1.0 miles long. The contract at award is $49,804,593.87. Work will be performed in St. John the Baptist Parish. The levee elevation will be 11 feet. The contract is scheduled to be completed in Summer 2027.
“In the past 12 months the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded $261,721,276.00 for the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane and Storm Reduction Project,” said Col. Cullen Jones, New Orleans District Commander. “This project continues USACE’s commitment along with its partners at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and Pontchartrain Levee District to providing storm surge risk reduction for more than 60,000 people in the St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. James parishes in southeast Louisiana.”
The West Shore Lake Pontchartrain project will achieve 100-year storm surge risk reduction by a variety of structural and non-structural features to include: levees, floodwalls, and pumps. While these features will reduce risk from storm surge associated with tropical events, they do not specifically reduce risk of flooding from significant rainfall. The project design team continues to work with the Non-Federal sponsor to acquire Rights of Entry (ROE) and coordinate with utilities and pipelines within the project footprint. Contracts completed include test sections, clay stockpiles, sand stockpiles, sand placement, and access road construction.
The commencement of permanent and final repairs of flood-damaged Skagit River levees has turned the once quiet Skagit River Basin into a bustling construction scene of dump trucks, excavators and workers spanning five work sites and three diking districts simultaneously.
The estimated eight-week long repairs kicked off in late July and will address a half-mile stretch of levees at a combined cost of $4,622,400. Additional levee rehabilitation work is planned for Skagit Diking Districts 17 and 22 in the coming weeks.
Under a cost-share agreement, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will cover 80% of the project cost, while the Skagit Diking Districts funds the remaining 20%.
In response to levee damages resulting from consecutive floods in 2020 and 2021, 2,400 feet of riverward banks will be repaired. In the damaged state the levees flood defense is significantly reduced. Repairs to slope failures, bank stabilization, scoured riprap armor, and cracking of riverward benches will restore the levees to their originally designed and built 50-year level of protection, or a 2% chance of flooding annually.
The impact on recreation and traffic is expected to be minimal and temporary at most work sites. The most noticeable impact will be on a heavily-used walkway for cyclists and pedestrians that connects Lions Park to downtown Mount Vernon.
Like other levee repair projects, the riverbank work will be carried out within the designated "fish window" period between June 15 and August 31, which allows construction crews to operate in the water with the least interference to salmon populations.
Janet Curran, USACE levee program manager, highlighted the significance of the Skagit River and lower Skagit Valley as critical habitats for threatened salmon species. "We are implementing several measures to mitigate impacts on salmon habitat, including the use of anchored root wads to enhance aquatic habitat."
Curran also mentioned that the planting of two rows of willow tree bundles along the repair sites. As the planted willows mature, they will provide shade, cover, and a source of terrestrial insects for juvenile salmon to eat as the young migrate to sea.
Throughout the planning process USACE officials coordinated, consulted and worked with federal, tribal and state agencies, including: Environmental Protection Agency, National Marine Fisheries Services, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Samish Indian Tribe, Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, Tulalip Tribes of Washington, Washington State Department of Ecology, State Historic Preservation Office and Skagit County.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, along with the Navajo County Board of Supervisors, signed the Little Colorado River at Winslow Flood-Risk Management Project Design Agreement July 11 at the Winslow Chamber of Commerce in Winslow, Arizona.
The signing ceremony marks the Corps’ initiation of pre-construction, engineering and design to reduce potential flood risk along the Little Colorado River in Winslow.
“This has been a long-awaited event, not only for the county, but for the city of Winslow,” said Alberto Peshlakai, chairman of the Navajo County Board of Supervisors. “The purpose of this project is to eliminate the flood zone, protect the Santa Fe transcontinental train line, recognize Navajo/Hopi relocatees, and, most importantly, improve public safety for the city of Winslow.”
About 5,000 people – families who live, work and call this area their home – along with critical infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, nursing homes and utilities, are located within a flood plain and are at the potential risk of flooding. The project area includes about 4.3 miles of flood-risk reduction levee and improvements located along the Little Colorado River near Winslow.
“The completion of this project will be a win for this community – not only by reducing the potential flood risk associated with the river, but also by creating stability, economic vitality and future growth for the area,” Balten said.
The Little Colorado River at Winslow Flood-Risk Management project received more than $65 million in federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to fund the project to completion.
“The project is also very important to the nation,” Balten said. “Flooding also poses a threat to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Bridge over the Little Colorado River – a critical transcontinental corridor for transporting goods to and from the Midwest to the West Coast.”
Initial project work will focus on geotechnical and cultural updates, as well as refined hydraulic modeling.
“The Los Angeles District is dedicated to safely delivering quality projects on time to our Arizona partners and stakeholders,” Balten said.
The LA District supports the public and military in Arizona with a wide variety of projects and planning, engineering, construction and environmental services. Projects include flood-risk management, navigation, recreation, and infrastructure and environmental stewardship.
For more information about LA District’s programs and projects, visit www.spl.usace.army.mil.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) South Atlantic Division (SAD) commander, Brigadier General Daniel Hibner, signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on June 29, 2023, with the Puerto Rico Power Authority (PREPA), to initiate the permanent repairs of the Guajataca Dam in Isabela, Puerto Rico. The total estimated cost for this project is around $1 billion. The funds will be received from PREPA with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Recovery Funds. It is estimated that the permanent repairs will benefit 1,000 people that live directly downstream of the dam and another 250,000 that receive water from the filtration plants in Guajataca, Quebradillas, Isabela, and the mountains of Aguadilla. Governor Pedro Pierluisi was present during the signing ceremony.
“This Memorandum of Agreement sets the path for the final phase of the permanent repairs at the Guajataca Dam. This partnership is set for success, not only because of USACE expertise, but also because we have tremendous support from FEMA and the engagement and commitment of our local sponsor PREPA.” stated Brig Gen Hibner.
In 2017 Hurricane María caused failure of the spillway structure and damaged the water supply line, and the dam outlet works. Project Manager Carolina Burnette explained that the MOA paves the way for the risk analysis, which will take approximately two years. After completing this step, the design phase will occur, followed by the construction phase which is expected to last five years.
Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, stated that “this project will bring a dam that was built in 1913 to the twenty-first century. The dam will not only get the repairs needed but it will also have an alarm system that will inform first responders if evacuations are needed or will notify authorities of any other emergency that will put lives or properties at risk. The repairs will provide the Guajataca Dam with the stability, strength, and resiliency it needs for the future.”
Prior to signing of the MOA, Brig. Gen. Hibner met with Governor Pierluisi and other members of his cabinet and briefed them about Task Force Virgin Islands Puerto Rico (VIPR), as well as provided them with updates from the Puerto Rico Power Mission. The SAD Commander explained that “VIPR represents a precedent setting time in the history of USACE in the Island since the program infrastructure in Puerto Rico is larger than the last fifty years combined. This is an opportunity to make history in Puerto Rico. Task Force VIPR is about people: protect life and property of the citizens by mitigating the flood risk with leadership whose focus are the projects in both islands.”
The Power Mission, led by USACE’s District of Savannah, was also discussed before the ceremony. Regarding this mission, Brig. Gen. Hibner commented that USACE is “actively engaged in addressing the power grid challenges in Puerto Rico that have been made worse by recent hurricanes. The Corps is contributing valuable technical expertise to successfully deliver power to the grid and the infrastructure to rapidly respond to power generation and repair issues now and in the future.”
With all 17 permanent pumps inspected and restored, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will remove the contingency pumps installed on the Pratt Drive side of the London Avenue Outfall Canal in New Orleans, La. The process to carefully remove the pumps and all associated piping will begin Monday, July 10, and take approximately one month to complete.
USACE, in partnership with the U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, installed 34 temporary pumps to provide emergency pumping capacity while work was underway to inspect and restore the permanent pumps at the London Avenue Permanent Canal Closures and Pumps structure. These pumps provided a combined 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) in pumping capacity to ensure the pump station could perform as needed while the 1,800 cfs Pump #1 was under repair. These contingency pumps are no longer necessary as the London Ave. PCCP has been restored to its full design capacity of 9,000 cfs.
Once all temporary components have been removed, USACE will begin restoration of the impacted greenspace. This work will include seeding and fertilizing the site, mulching and aerating the existing trees, pruning the crape myrtle trees, and planting two additional oak trees. A licensed horticulturalist and arborist will be hired to ensure the effort is done appropriately.
In February 2023, USACE identified corrosion as the primary cause of failure at Pump #1 at the London Avenue PCCP. In response, USACE began efforts to restore Pump #1 and worked with the PCCP Joint Venture contractor to inspect and repair, if necessary, the remaining 16 pumps at the three PCCP locations to ensure the pump stations would perform as designed during the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane season. These inspections and repairs were completed on June 1, 2023, with all pumps deemed available and reliable for hurricane season.
Following hurricane season, USACE will begin a long-term effort to deliver pumps that are sustainable, reliable and meet the 35-year design life. This work will take place outside of hurricane season and is anticipated to take multiple years.
Prior to 2023, the last major flood USACE Rock Island District battled was in 2019, a year many in the Quad City area remember vividly due to a temporary barrier failure that caused flood waters to rush into downtown Davenport, Iowa. Although flood fighting appears to be the same process each time, a number of things were done differently this year to improve response and preparedness.
Flooding this spring was primarily caused by melting snowpack in the northern portion of the river basin. It is believed that the last snowmelt-driven flood in the Rock Island District happened in 1965 and was a major flood of record. The flood of 2023 however progressed differently due to drought in the upper Midwest and allowed the predictions for the flood, by the National Weather Service, to be more accurate because no significant rain events needed to be factored in.
“The District had essentially a week to 10 days to prepare for the flood, as predicted.” said Anthony Heddlesten, lead Flood Area Engineer for the Rockford Area, which includes the Quad Cities. “The flood crest prediction was somewhere between 21 and 23 feet at Rock Island and the crest was right in that area.”
According to Heddlesten, several positive outcomes came from the flood fight in 2023. “Every flood is slightly different and all of them are growth opportunities for future planning.”
Bringing in an expert to assist communities with proper installation of the widely used HESCO gabion basket barriers was a major benefit.
“The HESCO expert immediately hopped right in (literally and figuratively) to help install the temporary barriers correctly and ensure our communities had the best knowledge and layouts to be successful,” said Heddlesten.
The use of new equipment such as inflatable culvert plugs and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was also a big plus.
“Culvert plugs were a huge relief to local sponsors in terms of how much they had to pump,” said Heddlesten. “And using UAV (drones) to see issues from an aerial view, that were not apparent on the ground, was very useful.”
Heddlesten also noted that new technologies played a major role in support of the flood fight this spring.
“The UAVs, used for getting aerial views, had the ability to do thermal imaging, and new electrical resistivity testing equipment helped us search for voids and issues in levee and flood control structures.”
Increased training and improved outreach and communications with communities served also provided a positive outcome during the flood fight this year.
“USACE had more time to prepare and train new employees this year because of the accurate projection on when flooding would occur,” said Heddlesten. “We also had better engagement with levee districts active in the PL84-99 program and the counties and communities along the river to keep them informed of all the support we could offer.”
Flood fighting isn’t a primary role for most of the flood area engineers in the District but when the Emergency Operations Center activates, those who are properly trained are ready to take on the collateral duty assignment and assist.
According to Sarah Jones, Emergency Management Chief, “our FAEs are successful because they have developed strong relationships with public sponsors through the Continued Eligibility Inspection Program. Their knowledge of the levee system features, local flood fight plans, and flood fight techniques make them invaluable to the levee sponsors and local communities they serve. Many of our flood team members have served for decades. That tells you something about the mission, and their servant hearts. It’s one of my favorite parts about this job.”
When you feel like you’re just walking down the block, your presence as a member of the USACE team brings a level of trust, confidence, a feeling of safety to the people around you, said Heddlesten. “It just really makes you proud to be a part of the team and even though having to respond to a disaster is not something you want to do, it’s a very rewarding experience being able to bring that help to our neighbors.”
Col. Cullen Jones, commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, inspected progress on repairs to the London Avenue Permanent Canal Closures & Pumps (PCCP) in New Orleans, La., and installation of temporary pumps May 30, 2023, to ensure pump capacity will be met before the start of this year’s Hurricane Season.
In February 2023, USACE and its partners identified corrosion as the primary cause of failure for Pump #1 at the London Avenue PCCP.
Pump #1 is under repair and scheduled to be returned to service before the start of the 2023 Hurricane Season.
Jones interacted with Corps personnel and contractors working onsite to install temporary pumps and complete repairs to the PCCP. He also spoke with residents living close to the job site who had questions about the work being performed at London Avenue.