News Story Manager

Building Green

Acting Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published April 20, 2012
More than 50 million gallons of water a day flows through this and other "waterfalls" in the Tres Rios Flow Regulating Wetlands and into the Salt River from the 91st Ave. Wastewater Treatment Facility. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers partnered with the City of Phoenix to build the riparian habitat in Phoenix's West Valley.

More than 50 million gallons of water a day flows through this and other "waterfalls" in the Tres Rios Flow Regulating Wetlands and into the Salt River from the 91st Ave. Wastewater Treatment Facility. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers partnered with the City of Phoenix to build the riparian habitat in Phoenix's West Valley.

The "waterfall" from the Tres Rios Flow Regulating Wetlands flows into the Salt River from the 91st Ave. Wastewater Treatment Facility. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers partnered with the City of Phoenix to build the riparian habitat in Phoenix's West Valley.

The "waterfall" from the Tres Rios Flow Regulating Wetlands flows into the Salt River from the 91st Ave. Wastewater Treatment Facility. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers partnered with the City of Phoenix to build the riparian habitat in Phoenix's West Valley.

WASHINGTON--As we approach Earth Day 2012, it affords us the opportunity to look back on the recent gains the Corps of Engineers has made in its environmental sustainability and stewardship efforts.

As the Nation’s Environmental Engineer, we manage one of the largest federal environmental missions in the United States, touching the lives of nearly every American. The challenges facing the Corps are enormous, everything from sustainable design and energy security to ecosystem restoration.

In light of the increasingly constrained fiscal environment, it is even more important to find ways to reduce the cost of operating our facilities and executing our missions – and help our customers do the same. We’ve spent the past two years focused on supporting national priorities for energy security and reducing the cost of operating our government, conserving natural resources, and helping to create jobs by investing in energy and water efficiency at Corps facilities.

In his recent State of the Union address, the President restated his challenge to make our government more cost effective and energy efficient, and he specifically challenged the Department of Defense to develop new clean energy sources on public lands.

As we look forward to developing the fiscal year 2014 budget, I see these challenges as new opportunities for the Corps of Engineers to apply its diverse talents to accelerate progress on Sustainability and Energy Security goals, while simultaneously reducing the burden that vehicles and facility energy have on our operations and maintenance funding.

We are positioned to leverage the full scope of the talents and capabilities housed at Huntsville and the Engineer Research and Development Center to take the Corps forward as a facility owner/operator, and to advance our customers’ Sustainability goals as well. With the contracting and technical abilities at HNC and ERDC, and the newly established Energy, Sustainable Design and Life Cycle Costs Centers of Expertise that are standing up Corps-wide, I think we have all the necessary tools at our disposal to take the Corps forward.

Sustainability and stewardship go hand-in-hand – we must be good stewards of both our financial resources and our natural resources. The Corps manages almost 12 million acres of public lands and waters in 43 states, an area equivalent to the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. These public lands and waters are homes to incredibly diverse habitats, and in some cases to species found nowhere else in the world.

In carrying out our Regulatory mission, USACE must carefully balance decisions to protect our nation’s aquatic resources, ensuring no net loss of wetlands while issuing about 90,000 permits to the American public each year.

Perhaps one of the greatest environmental legacies that the Corps and Nation can leave for future generations is ecosystem restoration. Across the country we are working with multiple Federal and non-Federal agencies and organizations in system-wide efforts to leverage the national investment in the interest of ecosystem restoration.

The Administration has named five high-priority ecosystems for restoration, and it is stunning to realize the landscape and natural resources that existed when these areas were inhabited by native tribes and explored by early settlers.

Of the Chesapeake Bay, Captain John Smith recorded in his journal, “Heaven and earth have never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation,” and described oyster reefs that lay as thick as stone.
Before it became known as the Everglades, a complex system of interdependent ecosystems that include cypress swamps, the estuarine mangrove forests of the Ten Thousand Islands, tropical hardwood hammocks, pine rockland, and the marine environment of Florida Bay, the Seminoles called it Pa-hay-okee, meaning “Grassy Water.”

The Gulf Coast, which stretches from Southern Texas to the Western Florida panhandle, became a part of the United States in the early 19th century through the Louisiana Purchase and the Texas Revolution, and has been subject to the most devastating hurricanes to ever come ashore.

The California Bay Delta, also known as the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, is an example of an inverted river delta, one of only a few worldwide. The fan-like area of the delta moves downstream, as the two rivers are forced to exit the Central Valley through the Coast Range via the narrow channel known as the Carquinez Strait, which leads to the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Early European settlers were astounded by both the variety (some 150 species) and quantity of fish in the Great Lakes, the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth. During the settlement of America, these lakes and their rivers were the only practical way of moving people and freight.

These are diverse ecosystems that are different from each other in a number of ways, including the maturity of interagency activities already under way, nature of the issues and varying level of existing Corps investment. The goal is to restore degraded ecosystem structure, function and dynamic processes to a more natural condition.

Ecosystem restoration also provides economic benefits through construction projects, and perhaps more importantly, improves the quality of life for all of those in the watershed, offering recreational opportunities, restored habitat for wildlife and new green space in urban areas. Community and school groups often have a hands-on way to get involved in smaller-scale efforts, from wetland planting to oyster reef creation to learning opportunities at Corps projects.

The breadth and depth of skills found within the Corps’ workforce gives us the ability to seek the best solutions to the environmental challenges that we deal with on a daily basis: sustainability, climate change, endangered species, environmental cleanup, ecosystem restoration and more. It is only by working together with federal, state and local partners, academia, private industry and  non-governmental organizations that we will be able to “turn the tide” after centuries of degradation and neglect of our natural resources.

We owe it to future generations to restore the delicate ecosystems that have been lost, and ensure that the Corps’ and the Army’s activities leave the smallest environmental footprint possible.

Thank you for all you do to support our Environmental efforts…we are not just BUILDING STRONG®, but BUILDING GREEN!