COL Steven Roemhildt 31 Oct 2012
Commander, Mobile District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
I am writing in regard to the ongoing issue of inadequate water level in West Point Lake.
This has become an annual problem, and I fear an acceptable annual status quo situation for the Army Corps of Engineers, charged with maintaining the lake.
I have discussed the issue on the phone with employees in the Corps Mobile office on two occasions who are quick to point out that the low levels are out of the Corps’ control, but rather are results of environmental regulation constraints and ‘acts of God’ (in the form of drought); and therefore the Corps does not acknowledge any responsibility for this recurring problem … all the blame goes to other factors.
Although I have yet to find rainfall data that supports the magnitude of water loss we are now annually experiencing, I will concede that in combination with government regulations, lack of rainfall and resulting drought conditions are the major contributors to the low lake levels, and yes, out of the control of the Corps.
My question then becomes, what is the Corps doing to mitigate this clear and recurring obstacle to meeting its responsibility to manage the level in a manner that allows the lake to exist as designed? In my opinion, responsibility for management of many of our rivers, lakes, other natural or man made resources is delegated to the Corps because the Corps possesses the knowledge and tools to manage, not just monitor those resources.
To do nothing about outside influences and allow the lake to seek its own level is not managing, and simply ‘opening or closing the faucet’ to comply with another environmental regulation can be done by most anyone with minimum training. It takes a special expertise to understand the mission (management of the lake to acceptable water levels), identify and analyze problems that interfere with accomplishing the mission, and develop courses of action to overcome the challenges that prevent mission success … rather than shirk responsibility because it’s the easier course and there are no consequences for this mission’s failure. I fear that the Corps has become like the hundreds of other agencies in our ever-growing expansive government bureaucracy, one that now exists for the purpose of sustaining itself, not for the purpose of serving the people.
As a retired military officer and defense contractor since retirement, when a job isn’t getting done, I look to see if the person, team, unit, agency fully understand what the job is, and what their responsibility is for accomplishing it. In the military, units at each level develop a mission statement that describes what they realize their mission to be. Further, the US Army goes a step further to develop a vision statement that describes how they see themselves accomplishing the mission. Following are the Army Corps of Engineers mission and vision statements as found on their official website, http://www.usace.army.mil/About/MissionandVision.aspx:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mission:
Provide vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our Nation’s security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vision:
A GREAT engineering force of highly disciplined people working with our partners through disciplined thought and action to deliver innovative and sustainable solutions to the Nation’s engineering challenges.
I respectfully ask that you provide us your vital public engineering services by delivering an innovative and sustainable solution to our recurring low lake level engineering challenge.
I believe it is time for a credible Corps spokesman to personally face the residents and other users of West Point Lake who pay taxes (some, extra taxes) to enjoy the pleasures of the lake, and tell us what efforts the Corps is expending to define, address, and find solutions to this ongoing problem.
The explanation must address efforts specifically in terms of the operating budget of the Corps to manage this lake. I may be wrong, but my impression is that there is much wasted taxpayer money here funding a largely inefficient, ineffective operation that is not accountable to the people who pay for it.
“We [need] to put an end to the notion that the American taxpayer exists to fund the federal government. The federal government exists to serve the American people.” From Ronald Reagan’s Acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, 17 July 1980
Charles Rogers, Col, USAF Ret