Going Green: USACE LA District continues innovative partnership
By Daniel Calderón
Los Angeles District
LAKE HAVASU, Ariz. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District has helped develop a strong partnership at Alamo Dam and along the Bill Williams River to continue sustaining our nation's economic and water resources.
"Originally, the dam's functions were flood control, water conservation and recreation," said Rene Vermeeren, the LA District's chief of Hydrology/Hydraulics Branch. "We found out ten years later that having a steady flow in the original prescription for the outflow, we found that we reduced the riparian habitat by as much as 70 percent."
Although the Corps operated the flow releases for the dam according to available specifications, there were more factors to be considered. As the downstream habitat was affected, the Corps joined a partnership of interested agencies.
"Back in 1995, there was a partnership formed that included the Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, state and federal agencies that all had an interest in the Bill Williams River," said Richard Gilbert, project leader for the Lake Havasu National Wildlife Refuge Complex. "They recognized a need to look at flows out of Alamo Dam to do good things for public use, fisheries, recreation, endangered species and habitat."
Through the collaboration, known as the Bill Williams River Corridor Steering Committee, with other government agencies and partners, the Corps ensured the flows from Alamo Dam maximized taxpayer dollars by maintaining a high level of sustainability for a variety of communities. Alamo Lake Park benefitted from the dam's reservoir, as did visiting boaters, fishermen and campers. Campers at the park share the land with the wild burros which live among the rugged terrain.
With more than 300 current species of birds and new species coming in every year, the wildlife along the river and at the Wildlife Refuge Complex benefitted from the controlled releases from Alamo Dam which are a part of the "flow regime" the Steering Committee developed. The managed flows to the 50 miles of the river serve to rejuvenate the native riparian habitat by mimicking natural flows. The Corps manages nearly twelve million acres of water and is consistently seeking innovative and environmentally sustainable solutions to the nation's water resources challenges to help strengthen the nation.
"The Corps of Engineers has been fantastic," Gilbert said. "When the process started, we were fortunate to have a person with the Corps of Engineers that could really listen to us biologists, interpret what we were saying and turn it into something that engineers and hydrologists could understand."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers strives to protect, sustain, and improve the natural and man-made environment of our nation, and is committed to compliance with applicable environmental and energy statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders. Sustainability is not only part of the Corps' decision processes, but is also part of its culture.