LOS ANGELES – A senior U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official got a firsthand glimpse of flood risk management and other civil works projects in Southern California during a recent trip to the Golden State.
Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon, the Corps' deputy commanding general for Civil and Emergency Operations, toured several of the Los Angeles District’s key projects during a Jan. 9-11 visit to the area.
Spellmon was joined by Brig. Gen. Kim Colloton, the Corps’ South Pacific Division commanding general, and Col. Aaron Barta, the Corps’ Los Angeles District commander.
This was Spellmon’s first visit to the LA District.
The purpose of his trip was to become more familiar with major West Coast ports, river basins and operations projects in the area.
“I learned in my first six or seven months in this position that our regional commands and their 43 Districts really are unique,” he said. “It was a great opportunity for me to find an entire week that I could spend with the (South Pacific Division) team and a couple days specifically with the (Los Angeles District).”
On Jan. 9, the trio headed to Prado Dam, where they received an update on the Santa Ana River Mainstem project and toured the dam’s modified embankment and outlet works. The dam protects more than 3 million residents and 225,000 structures downstream.
The group continued its visit of LA District projects during a Jan. 10 boat tour of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. During the boat ride around the harbors, they discussed the importance of the port to the region and the nation, as well as the successful partnership over the past 100 years with local, state and federal agencies on dredging management, breakwaters, the beneficial reuse of sediment, environmental studies and other projects.
Spellmon then headed to the California Marine Affairs and Navigation Conference at Newport Beach, where he spoke with members of the group about how the Corps is revolutionizing the organization by streamlining its processes.
With an increase in the Corps’ workload from $26 billion to $48 billion, he said, it’s more important than ever for the agency to stay relevant by changing the culture, being more innovative and allowing for more risk-based decision making at local levels.
From there, the group took an aerial tour on a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter over several of the Corps’ flood risk management and ecosystem restoration projects, including the Westminster Watershed, East San Pedro Bay, Port of Long Beach, Whittier Narrows Dam, and Arroyo Seco and Los Angeles rivers.
Once back in Los Angeles, Spellmon inducted John Moreno, South Pacific Division regional business director, into the Senior Executive Service during a ceremony at the District headquarters.
The SES was established by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, according to the Office of Personnel Management website. Members of the SES serve in key positions just below top presidential appointees and are the major link between the appointees and the rest of the federal workforce. SES rank is equivalent to general officer or flag officer rank in the armed forces.
Spellmon described the induction ceremony as a highlight of his trip and said the Corps is very fortunate to have executive leaders like Moreno; Cheree Peterson, program director, Civil Works Integration Division, South Pacific Division; and Colloton during this time of significant investment into the nation’s infrastructure.
On Jan. 11, Spellmon toured the Los Angeles River, where he learned about the Corps’ maintenance operations and sediment removal along the river, as well as the LA River Ecosystem Restoration project, before heading back to Washington, D.C., that night.
Both Barta and Colloton agreed Spellmon’s visit was very productive and will allow him to make informed decisions about the South Pacific Division’s projects.
“I think one of the biggest things he took away (from his visit) was the fact that he was able to see how integrated our projects are inside the population base,” Barta said, “So we could explain to him how many stakeholders have an interest in all of our projects.”
Spellmon said he was impressed with the people and projects during his visit and encouraged District employees to challenge themselves and their leaders to continue being more efficient and effective in project delivery.
“We are in a period of time that presents an incredible opportunity for the Corps,” he said. “Our nation is making record levels of investment in its infrastructure, and we have to deliver quality projects on time and within budget.”