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Posted 1/24/2013

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By Dave Palmer

MONTEBELLO, Calif. — U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commanding General Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick addressed members and guests from the Los Angeles, Orange County and Inland Empire posts of the Society of American Military Engineers during their 27th annual joint breakfast meeting at Quiet Canon Country Club here Jan. 18.

USACE South Pacific Division Commander Brig. Gen. Michael C. Wehr introduced Bostick as the keynote speaker to an audience of more than 100. In his introduction, Wehr spoke about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and how, as the USACE commanding general, Bostick brought people together, connecting people and [mission] execution.

“I think, at the Corps of Engineers, we engineer the solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges,” said Bostick. “It really is a team effort. It happens at the local level. That’s where the work is done.”

As an example of that local effort, Bostick mentioned two Los Angeles District civil works projects; Seven Oaks and Prado dams. Together, they provide approximately $140 million in flood risk reduction each year and protect 2 million people.

Using the damage sustained during Hurricane Katrina as an example, Bostick said, “As a nation, roughly $135 billion was spent on recovery; of that, only $14.5 billion was spent on the protection system. I always think that there is a silver lining, something we can learn. If we’d had that, we’ll say $15 billion, early on, we’d have saved roughly $120 billion for the nation.”

Part of the struggle, according to Bostick, is conveying that message to Congress and those who can help appropriate the funds. After Hurricane Sandy, Bostick said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, spent a great deal of time checking the damage along the coastline. 

“Gov. Christie was very concerned about the coastlines,” said Bostick. “He saw that where there were Corps projects, on the coastline, the homes behind them were in pretty good shape, where they were not, they were flat.”

According to Bostick, $60 billion has been authorized for Corps civil works projects nationwide, but only $2 billion has been funded by Congress. During Bostick’s first seven months in command, natural disasters, like hurricanes Sandy and Isaac and the Midwest drought’s impact on Mississippi River traffic, have racked up over $60 billion in damages to date.

As part of its core mission, USACE is prepared for disaster response, with hundreds of employees responding to worldwide contingencies each year. During Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, Wehr deployed from the South Pacific Division and the Los Angeles District deployed 13 employees, including District Commander Col. Mark Toy. The Corps remains dedicated to the construction, maintenance and operation of key infrastructure that contributes to the economy, environment, safety and quality of life of the Nation.