SAN FRANCISCO - The general in charge of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ operations for all of the Southwestern United States got a first-hand look this week at how Corps projects in the San Francisco Bay Area are improving the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of residents and contributing to the region’s multi-billion dollar shipping industry.
“These visits are always great for giving me context for the types of work that each of the districts do,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Toy, commander of the Corps’ South Pacific Division, who traveled across the Bay Area by land and sea to get a first-hand look at operations including an update on dredging in the Port of Richmond.
There, on the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay, Chevron terminals host tankers that bring in enough crude to supply a third of all the motor fuel used by Northern Californians, underscoring how vital the Corps’ dredging mission in Richmond Harbor is to the economy of the West Coast. While anchored in the harbor aboard the multi-use vessel, the John. A.B. Dillard, Toy, along with Lt. Col. John C. Morrow, commander of the Corps’ San Francisco District, reviewed with Chevron officials and Richmond’s port engineer the timing of dredging operations, along with environmental issues as well as ways to reduce costs. “It’s always good to see sponsors and the ones that I talked to are very pleased with the work that the Corps is doing for them,” Toy said afterward.
The general, who oversees $1.5 billion in military and civil works programs from California to New Mexico, went on to San Jose to review plans for a project intended to protect the city -- one of the largest in the Bay Area -- from another catastrophic flood. Known as the Upper Guadalupe River Construction Project, the Corps is working with the Santa Clara Valley Water District on a $293 million flood mitigation plan aimed at protecting more than 100,000 residents and billions of dollars in infrastructure and industry in the heart of Silicon Valley, much of which is below sea level.
It’s an example of the kind of work that Toy said probably goes unnoticed by the public, but will prove crucial if another flood occurs, as has often been the case following prolonged periods of drought.
“A lot of work is going on in areas where people live and work and they may not necessarily see the impact of all the great work we are doing until the floods come,” Toy said.
San Francisco district commander Morrow said the variety of work demonstrates how inextricably linked the district’s projects are to the communities the Corps is serving.
“The visits really give him a great perspective of how complex and challenging these projects can be and how important our great partners and stakeholders are to the process,” Morrow said.
Toy also toured Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno where the Corps is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to replace a chain link fence that surrounds the burial grounds with new ornamental fencing.
He characterized projects in the district as extremely important to one of the division’s most populated regions, one where environmental concerns and natural disasters can complicate missions.
“San Francisco is so civil works-heavy and a lot of their projects – whether they be flood risk or ecosystem restorations – are really in very densely populated urban areas so they present a lot of extra challenges,” said Toy.