USACE multi-verse converges on Texas town to complete first phase of flood risk mitigation project
Guided by the “One Team, One Mission” mantra, the multi-district and multi-disciplinary Santa Fe Ditch Project Delivery Team showcased exemplary mission execution, stakeholder focus, teamwork and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Business Process in support of Disaster principles.
Members from three districts, representing two USACE divisions, each with their own expertise, joined together with the common goal to rebuild a damaged outfall ditch that provides flood risk mitigation to the citizens of Wharton, Texas.
“The team relied upon the diverse experiences and expertise of members from the Southwestern Division’s Fort Worth and Galveston Districts along with the Northwestern Division’s Omaha District, to optimize the entire project,” said Mike Kingston, Santa Fe Ditch project manager from the Fort Worth District.
Initially, the Santa Fe outfall embankment was constructed by the City of Wharton in 2013. Although classified as a ditch, the structure provides drainage for about a quarter of the city during heavy rainfall and acts as supplementary interior drainage storage if the Colorado River runs high.
“The ditch section is the first phase of a four-part project to help mitigate city flood risk from future flooding events,” said Kingston. “The ditch was initially damaged in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey devastated the region. Subsequent heavy rainfalls added to the damage.”
Located near the Gulf of Mexico, and close to the confluence of the Colorado River, Caney Creek, Baughman Slough, and Peach Creek, the city of Wharton has historically suffered when heavy rains hit the region. In 2020, $48,000 in emergency repairs were made by the city, but the structure still needed major rehabilitation.
“Since the 1998 floods, the city of Wharton has been working tirelessly with the Army Corps of Engineers on the Colorado River Flood Reduction Project and this outfall is only one small piece of that project,” Wharton Mayor Tim Barker said during a recent ribbon cutting ceremony. “After repeated disasters, the outfall received significant damage and we were unable to fund the extensive repairs needed.”
Throughout the project, the USACE team was adaptable and innovative with the emergency repair of the Santa Fe Ditch, overcoming real estate acquisition challenges, contract acquisition limitations, construction material scarcity and adverse weather.
The team used the USACE Business Processes, adapting as conditions changed. This, Kingston said, leveraged the best across USACE to provide an accelerated and high-quality flood mitigation solution that was under cost and on schedule, exceeding stakeholder expectations.
“This multi-disciplinary team tackled this $5.1 million emergency repair and reconstruction project aggressively and collaboratively,” said Southwestern Division Commander Col. Brooks Schultze. “As a result of the collective strengths across USACE and the synergy of the team, this rapid and robust solution to flood risk mitigation was under cost, ahead of schedule and met our flood risk mitigation goals for this project.”
“More importantly,” Schultze added, “the project will directly benefit the people of Wharton and the region through structure repair and enhanced flood control resiliency.”
Knowing that stormwaters flow to Wharton from hundreds of miles away, future phases of the project will include building levees to manage the Colorado River and provide for interior sumps and drainage features. The entire project is expected to be completed in 2028.
The Santa Fe Ditch, part of the greater Wharton project, is one of 40 projects authorized in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.”
Since its passage, the Southwestern Division has aggressively executed its $5 billion Hurricane Harvey Supplemental Program. The Division’s program provides critical flood risk resiliency to the region by repairing damage from 2017 hurricanes and building additional flood risk reduction structures.
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