There were many challenges this year; recovering from the catastrophic Lower Missouri River Basin flooding event of 2019, protecting the workforce and public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, and hurricane first responder deployments. But in the face of unprecedented adversity, USACE Omaha District rose to each challenge through leveraging industrious teamwork and continuing to successfully support its worldwide missions. The District ended the year executing its largest program ever at $1.65 billion.
2019 Flood Recovery Efforts
The historic 2019 flooding of the Missouri River Basin devastated communities, families, and businesses along the river and its tributaries. With more than 500 miles of infrastructure along 60 different levee and channel systems across five states, the multiple record setting flood event challenged mobilization and hundreds of District’s employees to respond to the relief efforts.
The District has worked tirelessly to repair the catastrophic damages caused by snow melt that led to flooding. The amount of materials placed include 2,291,590 CY clay, 5,437,583 CY sand, 287,890 tons of rip rap/shot rock , 166,631 tons levee surfacing, 282 acres of erosion control mats, 508 acres of seeding, 74,455 tons of other aggregate and 326,466 SF of sheet pile.
The District has closed 100% of active levee breaches, with 31 closed and 0 remaining open.
To restore the levees that were damaged, and rebuild the communities affected by the floods, the District’s workforce worked long hours for months. Through the commitment, hard work, ingenuity and dedication of the team, not only have the levees been repaired, but the District has helped the families and businesses of the region put their lives back together,” said former District Commander, Col. John Hudson.
On March 13, 2020, the White House announced a “Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak.” The federal government, along with state and local governments, took preventive and proactive measures to slow the spread of the virus and treat those affected, including instituting quarantines, instituting policies to accelerate the use of personal protective equipment. Many organizations including the Corps offered telework to its workforce as a life safety measure and slow the spread of the virus.
When the World Health Organization announced that the COVID-19 outbreak can be characterized as a pandemic, the Corps in partnership with HHS and FEMA got into action. Together the organizations planned and created alternate care sites as temporary health emergency facilities to reduce the burden of hospitals for the increasing demands during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Omaha District in partnership with federal, state and local governments completed four facilities. A 100-bed facility in Kalispell, Montana that was completed two days earlier than expected and came in 10% under budget; a 2,000 beds at the Denver Convention Center; a 1,100 beds at the Ranch Events Complex in Loveland Colorado; and in partnership with the Albuquerque District, the Omaha District constructed one facility in Tempe, Arizona.
After touring the Kalispell facility, USACE Northwestern Division Commander Brig. Gen. Pete Helmlinger was impressed with the both the quality and the speed of the work.
“Partnership is extremely important. This is truly a team sport here, and we had to have everybody aligned to bring it in on time so we could not have been successful without the support of first FEMA, as well as the state of Montana, Kalispell Regional Medical Center, the Corps of Engineers and our construction contractors, so everybody has been in alignment,” he said.
Balancing the demands of COVID-19, ongoing missions, and the life safety of the workforce remained the top priorities of the District. When the proclamation from the White House was announced in March, the Omaha District implemented maximum telework as a measure to protect its workforce and slow the spread of the virus, while maintaining mission readiness and support.
After carefully monitoring the COVID cases in the region and around the country, in August the District established a reintegration plan to transition its workforce back to the workplace.
“Employee health and safety remains my number one priority while we execute our important missions for the Nation. For the Omaha District HQ and local area offices, we continue to meet the gating criteria established in our Reintegration Plan for transition to Phase Two. However, I have decided to remain at Phase One for the timing being in order to maximize employee and family health and safety,” said District Commander Col. Mark Himes.
“Our workplaces offer the right protocols, protections for those employees that choose to work from the office, while supervisors continue to support employee flexibilities (i.e. telework) and balance workload responsibilities. Thanks to everyone that continues to practice good safety/health protection measures. As the CDC recommends, please continue to wear face coverings, wash your hands, consider a flu shot this time of year, and practice social distancing. The CDC states that cloth face coverings are a critical tool in fighting COVID. For all of us. Let’s not get complacent,” he added.
Hurricane Relief Efforts
Six weeks before the end of fiscal year, Hurricane Laura made landfall and devastated some parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Amidst the many challenges of COVID-19 and the flood recovery efforts, 16 Omaha District employees voluntarily deployed to help the residence of the southern states through the Blue Roof mission. This program in partnership with FEMA provides temporary roofing installations for homeowners until permanent repairs can be made.
“The hurricane relief efforts did not have an impact on our program budget or year-end execution of programs,” said Tonya Dutra, Omaha District Deployment Specialist.
“However, it does display how partnerships are very important to our overall mission to deliver vital engineering services and the teamwork involved. Something else to consider while members of our workforce are deployed, colleagues stretched with covering additional assignments,” she added.
According to Ted H. Streckfuss, Deputy District Engineer, Omaha District, “the Omaha District is blessed to be acknowledged for the team’s hard work. With our team’s can-do attitude, we’ve created a culture of leveraging tools and resources that have enabled us to have an entrepreneurial spirit, perform in excellence, and make an impact on the overall USACE mission.”
Year End Execution
Omaha District ranked as the fifth largest program in USACE. The top four programs include Los Angeles/South Pacific Border District ending the year with $5.9 billion obligated, Fort Worth District with $2.6 billion, U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville at $1.98 billion, and Baltimore District with a $1.78 billion program.
“Though we are sitting in the heart of the United States, the focus of the District is in the Midwest, the organization accomplishes work worldwide through special projects on embassies, international military facilities, and fuels,” said Jeff Bolhken, P.E., PMP, Chief, Omaha Systems Restoration Team, Omaha District.
In total, the District executed 2,144 contract actions. Some notable accomplishments include; $615M in civil works and almost $1.1M military mission contracts. Some major special projects include nine projects for the Offutt Flood Recovery efforts totally $662M; Fort Bliss/Biggs AAF Runway Replacement at $46.9M; Fort Carson/Teller Dam at $22M; the Environmental Restoration Program to include environmental remediation, superfund, and FUDS at $188.8M, and the POL-MCX Fuels Execution having a record year at $156M.