By Joseph Bonfiglio
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Honolulu District Public Affairs
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii - In support of the Governor, local responders and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) personnel deployed in early August to support recovery efforts in the aftermath of Typhoon Soudelor in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI).
USACE’s Power Planning and Response Team (Power PRT) from the Honolulu District is on the ground now, making a huge difference, and includes specialists for contracting, liaisons, mission management, data management, logistics, and quality assurance.
This specialized team is working with the U.S. Army 249th Engineer Battalion, contractors, and commonwealth and local entities to assess, install and maintain emergency generators at critical facilities, especially at wells to ensure that residents of Saipan get a much needed supply of drinking water.
The Power PRT is working in support of FEMA and other federal partners to identify, assign and resolve existing and incoming FEMA mission assignments as well as other assignments or projects related to Typhoon Soudelor.
FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO), Steve DeBlasio, thanked USACE and the Power PRT for their assistance in meeting the humanitarian mission on Saipan, and praised them for their dedication and hard work.
"Their efforts go a long way in allowing the government of CNMI and the rest of our federal and private sector partners to create solutions to problems," said DeBlasio.
The USACE team is also conducting engineering assessments of public works facilities that may have sustained typhoon damage, to include water treatment plants, medical facilities and public safety buildings.
The Army Corps of Engineers has been on the scene from the beginning supporting FEMA and local officials. Prior to Soudelor’s landfall, USACE had begun mobilizing and pre-positioning personnel from its FEMA credentialed emergency management and Power Planning Response Team along with Soldiers from the 249th Engineer Battalion out of Hawaii.
"Prepositioning of personnel greatly contributed to the Corps’ immediate response," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey L. Milhorn, who is the Commanding General for USACE Pacific Ocean Division.
Under the National Response Framework and in support of FEMA, the Army Corps is the responsible agency for Emergency Support Function 3, Public Works and Engineering. These responsibilities include debris management, emergency infrastructure assessment, emergency temporary power, and critical public facility assessments.
When disasters occur, it is not just a local Army Corps district or office that provides part of the federal response. The Pacific Ocean Division at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, is coordinating the Army Corps’ enterprise-wide emergency response with FEMA.
"While our Honolulu District is up front executing our mission in Saipan, teammates from across nearly all of the Corps’ nine divisions are deployed or virtually engaged in this important humanitarian assistance mission," said Milhorn. "The Corps has a tremendous capability to quickly mobilize personnel and pull together technical expertise and other resources from across the country to carry out our response missions."
Emergency response personnel and technical subject matter experts for temporary power and debris management, contracting, logistics, and communication functions from Headquarters USACE; Great Lakes and Ohio River; Mississippi Valley; North Atlantic; Northwestern; South Atlantic; South Pacific; Southwestern; and Pacific Ocean divisions have all come together to help ensure the needs in Saipan are being met.
According to then acting CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, "I have so much gratitude to the people of Guam, FEMA, Joint Region Marianas, the U.S. Marines and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for all their support in restoring utilities and the rest of the infrastructure so our residents can get back to normal as quickly as possible. I can’t thank them enough; it’s overwhelming."