Maj. Gen. Kimberly Colloton, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deputy commanding general for Military and International Operations – and a former LA District commander – was one of several distinguished visitors, who received an update on Corps’ projects at the VA Longbeach Healthcare System.
Colloton was joined by Col. Andrew Baker, Los Angeles District commander; Tambour Eller, Senior Executive Service chief for Interagency and International Services Division; David Hibner, SES, director, U.S. Army Geospatial Center; Col. Chad Caldwell, acting commander for the Corps’ South Pacific Division; and other senior Corps and Veterans Affairs’ leaders to review progress of the new 181,000-square-foot Community Living Center and two separate 80,000-plus-square-feet mental health in-patient and out-patient facilities. The VA Long Beach Healthcare System serves more than 50,000 veterans.
“Since the last time I was out here, so much has been done,” Colloton said. “It’s great to see it so far along and so close to the end. We are getting there. They’re in the final stages of closing things up and making the final finishes to be suitable to move patients and providers in, so it’s exciting to see.”
Colloton, who was at the project site for the groundbreaking ceremony on Veterans Day 2018, said it’s taken a while to reach completion, but once it’s done, it will serve veterans in the area for years to come.
Focusing on taking care of the nation’s veterans by constructing these facilities at the VA is a top priority, and SES Eller said the construction progress has been phenomenal.
“What we’re observing is the partnership continuing to mature – the lessons learned and best practices,” Eller said, noting there are three other VA Community Living Centers and parking structures under construction, using the latest technologies. “At the end of the day, we’re supporting winning by implementing those best practices and delivering for our veterans.”
Baker also noted the amount of progress since his first visit in April 2023, before assuming command of the LA District in July.
“There’s really been a lot of progress,” Baker said. “It’s starting to look like a finished facility. I’m looking forward to getting this great facility into operation, which is a huge improvement to what the veterans on site have now. It’s going to be fabulous.”
The single building that currently houses the VA Long Beach mental health services and the Community Living Center Healthcare System patients is scheduled for demolition after the replacement facilities are fully operational. The $350-million projects are expected to be completed in fiscal year 2024.
Two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District Planning Division team members participated in the 2023 State of the Los Angeles River Watershed Symposium Sept. 19 at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles.
The symposium brought together governments, non-profit organizations, community-based organizations, scientists, academics, agency representatives, land managers and other interested parties to discuss emerging concerns about the Los Angeles River in the era of climate change.
Megan Whalen, a watershed program manager with the LA District and urban waters ambassador, was one of four panelists who participated in a breakout session titled, “Weathering Change,” in which audience participants discussed climate impacts on communities and strategies for resilience.
“I think the real emphasis today was on environmental justice and working with communities that will be even more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” she said. “Severe weather has the ability to impact all communities; however, vulnerable communities are going to be even more at risk.”
Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin or income regarding the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies with no group bearing a disproportionate burden of environmental harms and risks.
For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, environmental justice and disproportionate impacts to Justice40 communities are considered throughout the agency’s Civil Works programs and in all phases of project planning and decision-making.
Environmental justice is when everyone receives the same degree of protection and equal access to Civil Works programs and services to achieve a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work.
“So, in being here today, we not only are able to represent what we do,” Whalen said, “but also (represent) the partnership that we have with the Council of Watershed Health.”
A poster session followed the evening reception at the symposium, where attendees were able to walk around and discuss various collaborating agencies’ posters.
Manya Singh, a study manager for environmental justice initiatives with the LA District, presented her environmental justice and engineering with nature posters and discussed the Corps’ goals in achieving Justice40, as well as the Corps work with engineering with nature.
“We're here today to talk about these two initiatives and to indicate to our friends and partners these are two initiatives that we are looking for new connections and new opportunities to work on,” Singh said.
Singh’s environmental justice poster shows a recently developed map of the district’s area of operations, with various overlays that highlighted the environmental justice outreach conducted in local communities in 2023.
Singh’s engineering with nature poster was highlighted in the symposium’s pamphlet.
“I did spend a lot of time on this poster,” Singh said. “Engineering with nature is an initiative out of (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Research and Development Center), and, previously, the San Francisco District was considered the proving ground … recently the whole (South Pacific Division) has become a proving ground. That includes the Los Angeles District, so we are trying to let our communities know we are really pushing the engineering with nature approach. This poster highlights the four elements of the approach.”
For more information about the Corps’ environmental justice and engineering with nature initiatives, visit:
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.