HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held its first-ever regional collaboration meeting with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Tuesday at the Rachel Carson Building, aimed at increasing awareness of interagency capabilities and strengthening partnerships.
“This workshop is important, so we know what everyone’s piece to play is in the Commonwealth,” said Brig. Gen. Tony Carrelli, adjutant general, representing Gov. Tom Wolf. “We’re working together to protect our residents and preserve the environment. We will see how we can take some of our overlapping resources to fill some of our gaps.”
Pennsylvania is served by multiple Corps districts: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Buffalo.
“Connecting our agencies — from leadership positions to our program managers — ensures we are aware of the most pressing priorities and needs, available resources and funding opportunities, and short-term and long-term actions we can take to reach viable solutions for the Commonwealth,” said Col. Ed Chamberlayne, Corps, Baltimore District commander.
In addition to Chamberlayne, Corps attendees included North Atlantic Division Commander Brig. Gen. William Graham, Pittsburgh District Commander Col. John Lloyd and Philadelphia District Commander Lt. Col. Michael Bliss. Representatives from Planning and Project Management from each of the districts were also in attendance.
“This workshop acts as quality assurance, as we try to ensure consistency between our districts,” said Graham. “Working with our partners in the Commonwealth, we want our efforts to complement one another; one plus one shouldn’t always equal two.”
In addition to Carrelli, representatives from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania included Patrick McDonnell, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection acting secretary; Cindy Adams Dunn, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources secretary; Richard Flinn, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency director; Leo Bagley, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation special assistant to the secretary; and Dennis Davin, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development secretary.
"It's vital for our team and Pennsylvania leaders to share information at all levels in order to identify key issues and work together on solutions," said Bliss.
Corps representatives gave presentations on the types of studies and projects they perform throughout the Chesapeake Bay region to provide attendees a better idea of how the Corps and Commonwealth could work together to solve water resources issues using federal funding and partner contributions. Topics included Technical Assistance Programs, the interagency Pennsylvania Silver Jackets flood risk management team, Regulatory permitting, Continuing Authorities Program and Emergency Management.
“I knew you were phenomenal recreation providers,” said Dunn of the Corps, which operates and maintains several dams in Pennsylvania, including Tioga-Hammond, Cowanesque and Raystown. “Today, I became aware of the breadth of programs that I had no idea you worked on.”
PADEP also shared their Growing Greener Program with the Corps. This grant program helps protect open space, clean up abandoned mines, preserve farmland and provide new and upgraded water and sewer systems. Dave Jostenski, an environmental program manager with PADEP, stated that there was approximately $18 million available for grants in fiscal 2016.
“This program has helped Pennsylvania tremendously since 1999,” said Jostenski.
Following presentations, the floor was open for discussion.
“This was a great model to better collaborate across federal and state agencies to meet the many water resources challenges facing Pennsylvania,” said Lloyd.
Presentation topics summary:
Technical Assistance Programs - Planning-level technical assistance and analyses on flooding and floodplain management related issues using either all federal funding or as part of a cost-share agreement. As an example, the Corps is partnering with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission to inventory and analyze municipal stormwater infrastructure (culverts) and prioritize areas for future flood response and infrastructure management. The Corps is also working with the Commonwealth and other partners to develop a flood inundation mapping library that is available to the public and shows the potential depth and extent of flooding for the Delaware River based on the forecast.
Pennsylvania Silver Jackets – A state-led interagency team administered through the Corps that collaborates on projects to reduce flood risk and enhance response and recovery. There are several ongoing Silver Jackets projects in the Commonwealth, including a flood damage assessment process improvement plan, Wyoming Valley flood inundation mapping, flood-proofing assessments for various areas, as well as a hazard mitigation and historic preservation project in Philadelphia.
Continuing Authorities Program - Provides the Corps with the authority to solve water-resource, flood risk management and environmental restoration problems in partnership with local sponsors without the need to obtain specific Congressional authorization. CAP allows the Corps to plan and implement projects more efficiently that are smaller, less complex and less costly. Projects include streambank and shoreline protection, inland and coastal flood risk management, navigation improvement, beneficial use of dredged material and aquatic ecosystem restoration.
General Investigations Program – Larger multifaceted studies and projects that require Congressional authorization and funding provided to the Corps.
Design-build authorities – Allows the Corps to design and construct environmental infrastructure and restoration projects in specific areas. Through the Southeastern Pennsylvania Environmental Improvement Program, the Corps can design and provide construction assistance for sewer system extensions and improvements. The Corps is also conducting several projects and studies through the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Restoration and Protection Program.
Emergency Management – The Corps can assist with disaster preparedness and advance measures, as well as emergency operations during a disaster. The Corps can also repair at full federal expense flood risk management projects that are part of the Rehabilitation and Inspection Program.