Harbor Dredging? Yes the Army handles that too…. But should it?

From the Corps of Engineers Flickr collection:

Dredging the Baltimore Harbor
Caption:  Dredging the Baltimore Harbor

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District contractor Weeks Marine uses their dredge, B. E. Lindholm, to keep the Cape Henry portion of the Baltimore Harbor Channel at 51 feet deep so ships can safely travel up the Chesapeake Bay to the Port of Baltimore. Because the Cape Henry portion of the channel is at the entrance way to the Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk District takes on this project in support of its sister district, Baltimore. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Patrick Bloodgood)

Weeks Marine’s hopper dredge, B.E. Lindholm

Caption: Weeks Marine’s hopper dredge, B.E. Lindholm

Dredge material is pumped on board Weeks Marine’s hopper dredge, B.E. Lindholm, from the depths of the Cape Henry Channel at the entrance way to the Chesapeake Bay. The dredge is working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, which is tasked with keeping the channel at 51 feet so ships can safely travel to the Port of Baltimore. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Patrick Bloodgood)

As the captions state, the dredge in these photos is a contracted vessel.  However the Corps of Engineers maintains a small fleet of its own dredges too (I think they are down to four currently).  Those vessels, supplemented by contracted resources such as the B.E. Lindholm, perform a mission dating back to 1824 – maintain navigation for the nation’s harbors and riverways.

Because of this task and other similar civil engineering missions, funding for the Corps of Engineers projects is not your traditional “beans and bullets” army stuff.  Unlike… say… tank procurement, the projects taken on by the Corps in these missions often have a direct impact on taxpayers.  “Infrastructure” is the word you hear most often in these budget battles.   And that also often puts the Corps in the unenviable position of executing someone’s pet project aimed at pleasing a particular constituent audience.  The civil engineering missions also place the Corps in the role of enforcer for a myriad of Federal regulations – ranging from the Clean Water Act to the National Historic Preservation Act.  Given this wide ranging mission, current plans for FY 2013 call for $4.731 billion just in discretionary spending, specific to the civil engineering tasks.

Given the budget cuts to the Army, should the Corps of Engineers retain this role?  Should the role instead be handed over to other government agencies, perhaps Department of Transportation or Commerce?  Or…. gasp… make the Environmental Protection Agency responsible for maintaining wetlands?  Maybe tell the Navy to dredge its own channels?

Would the Army do well to relinquish this long traditional role?  Or is this a role the Army should retain?

USACE Photos from 9/11

USACE Patrol Boat Hocking heads toward lower Manhattan on 9-11

Caption:
USACE Patrol Boat Hocking heads toward lower Manhattan on 9-11

NEW YORK — Patrol Boat Hocking heads toward lower Manhattan on 9/11 to provide assistance following the attacks on the World Trade Center. PB Hocking was one of many U.S. Army Corps of Engineers vessels from various Districts that were on the waters of the New York and New Jersey Harbor that day helping to ferry evacuees from lower Manhattan and bringing in emergency responders on return trips. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers file photo)

The Public Affairs Office at the US Army Corps of Engineer has released some photos pertaining to 9/11 on their Flickr channel this week. Many of the photos show activities in the days after the attack or months later.  But a few show the USACE’s actions in direct response to the attack.

DCV Hayward helped ferry evacuees from lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks

DCV Hayward helped ferry evacuees from lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks

NEW YORK — DCV Hayward, one of New York District’s three drift collection vessels, was one of several U.S. Army Corps of Engineers vessels that helped ferry evacuees from lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks. DCV Hayward still patrols the New York and New Jersey Harbor as part of its regular duties, collecting drift and debris that could be hazardous to navigation. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers file photo)

Hurricane Cleanup… Yes the Army does that too.

Or was it a Tropical Storm?  I’ve lost track.  – Craig.

USACE New York District cleans debris in New York & New Jersey Harbor

USACE New York District cleans debris in New York & New Jersey Harbor
NEW YORK — The crew of DCV Gelberman works to clear drift and debris from the waters in and around the New York and New Jersey Harbor, Aug. 30, 2011 after Tropical Storm Irene. Tropical Storm Irene brought storm surge, heavy winds and lots of rain to the region over the weekend and Army Corps crews are working hard to gather the additional drift that may be in the New York and New Jersey Harbor following the storm to ensure safe navigation.(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Chris Gardner)

 DCV Hayward loads debris in New York & New Jersey Harbor

DCV Hayward loads debris in New York & New Jersey Harbor
NEW YORK — DCV Hayward drops of a morning’s load of debris collected in the catamaran, rigged with a steel net to gather debris, that was attached to its side while it collected debris and other potential hazards to navigation in and around the New York and New Jersey Harbor, Aug. 30, 2011. The load pictured is approximately 17,000 pounds. Tropical Storm Irene brought storm surge, heavy winds and lots of rain to the region over the weekend and Army Corps crews are working hard to gather the additional drift that may be in the New York and New Jersey Harbor following the storm to ensure safe navigation. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Chris Gardner)

Floodwaters from tropical storm wash out Vermont roads

Floodwaters from tropical storm wash out Vermont roads

After Tropical Storm Irene swept through New England, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began inspecting and assessing possible damage to infrastructure at its dam sites. Here, a state or town bridge has been washed downstream by the powerful flooding that occured because of the storm on the way to the Corps’ Ball Mountain Lake Dam, Jamaica, Vt. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Frank Fedele)