LOS ANGELES—Col. David Turner, the commander of the South Pacific Division, went on a whirlwind tour of several Los Angeles District projects during a visit to the area Aug. 19-23.
Turner, who took command of the division in June, was joined by James Dalton, the Corps of Engineers’ chief of engineering and construction, and Brad Schwichtenberg, deputy chief of the division’s regional integration team.
The group, accompanied by Col. Kimberly Colloton, district commander, and David Van Dorpe, district deputy engineer for programs and project management, toured a multitude of projects, showcasing a cross section of many of the district’s efforts, including civil works, military construction, interagency and international services, partner and community outreach, and professional development programs.
On the first day of the trip, Turner toured the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.; the site of ongoing military construction projects, including a new hospital and a water treatment plant. During this visit, Turner presented USACE’s 2013 Project Delivery Team of the Year Award for Merit to more than 75 people from numerous districts, partner agencies and stakeholder groups for their work on the water treatment plant and distribution system project. Once complete, the plant will provide six million gallons per day to soldiers and families living and working on the sprawling post.
On Aug. 21, Turner, Dalton, Schwichtenberg, and district leadership took an aerial tour of various civil works project sites, including the recently completed channel deepening at the Port of Los Angeles as well as other dredging projects in Marina Del Rey, Newport Harbor, and Upper Newport Bay.
As part of this helicopter tour, the group stopped at Prado Dam in Corona, Calif., to discuss modifications that will allow the dam to increase its maximum outlet capacity from 10,000 cubic feet per second to 30,000 cubic feet per second. Several of the modifications to the dam, its basin, and the Santa Ana River downstream are complete, with the remainder underway or scheduled for future construction.
Work completed thus far includes raising the dam embankment by 28 feet, rebuilding the outlet works and outlet channel, and constructing three of five dikes in the basin that will protect critical infrastructure and other facilities.
Atop the dam at the control tower, Dalton talked about the value of the tour and how it helped shape his views of how the Corps conducts business in different parts of the country.
"To be able to look at our projects is extremely helpful in understanding their challenges and issues, and where I can help," Dalton said. "Seeing it on paper is one thing, seeing it in person makes it much easier to understand."
After touring the sites, Dalton, Turner and Colloton returned to the Santa Ana Dams Resident Office to speak with the staff. Next, the group was whisked off to district’s El Monte office, where Turner received an informational brief on the Los Angeles County Drainage Area and the Corps’ responsibility in operating and maintaining a number of dams and flood control channels that comprise the system. The group received a brief tour of Whittier Narrows Dam before boarding the helicopter for an aerial overview of segments of the Los Angeles River, where the district conducted a study to develop ways to restore the ecosystem in certain areas.
The third day of Turner’s visit, he met with directors of seven county flood control offices at the district headquarters. The meeting facilitated a discussion on the individual needs of each office and how the Corps can better address some of their concerns, including more aligned communication for joint efforts. Turner also had lunch with participants in the district’s Leadership Development Program.
Turner hosted a town hall meeting for district personnel, where he talked about his leadership philosophy and broader efforts at the division to make better use of resources among the districts. Turner, Dalton, Schwichtenberg, and key district leaders ended the day’s events with a tour of segments of the Los Angeles Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study project with stops at Verdugo Wash, North Atwater Park, Taylor Yard, Arroyo Seco, and the Piggyback Yard. The study focuses on an 11-mile stretch of the river in the nation’s second largest urban region and, therefore, has the ability to positively impact millions of people who live in close proximity to its boundaries. The study aims to restore ecological value and habitat to the Los Angeles River corridor.
The following day, Turner toured the site of the Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Long Beach, Calif., where the district is leading construction efforts for a new building and installing emergency power generators. Turner also visited with the principal of Compton High School, where the district is leading outreach efforts to bolster the school’s capability to bring science, technology, engineering, and math to the school. Turner and Colloton met with the science department chair, Dr. Lorenita Holloway, science department educators, and members of Heal the Bay, a non-profit organization working with the school on a project at Compton Creek. This meeting helped demonstrate to Turner the breadth of the district’s outreach efforts and the efforts made to partner with multiple organizations to accomplish shared goals.
"This has been interesting and worthwhile," Turner said of his visit. "It’s great to be able to ‘pull the covers back’ and look at ourselves and see how we can improve efficiencies across the region."
Colloton discussed the importance of the visit and how it contributes to vertical alignment among the various hierarchies within USACE.
"At the district level, it’s important to stay connected to the philosophies at division and at headquarters," Colloton said. "It’s also important they understand the constraints we face on the ground. Meetings like this are a great opportunity for us all, because we can’t have success without the synergy that results from collaborating at all levels."
Editor’s note: This article is composed of reports from Greg Fuderer, Brooks O. Hubbard IV, Kristen Skopeck, and David Salazar.