The Corps of Engineers is undergoing some turnover, both at Corps Headquarters and in the USACE water supply team. These changes will affect NWSA’s partnership with the Corps, but it mostly highlights the value of maintaining NWSA’s strong relationship with the Corps and the importance of our growing membership.
Unfortunately, the USACE water supply team has lost three key water supply experts. As you know, Amy Frantz was the primary point of contact for NWSA, and she was instrumental in keeping NWSA issues on the radar at the Corps. She was reassigned to other priorities in the Spring and is no longer involved in water supply policy. Her replacement should be announced soon.
The USACE water supply team has a very short bench, and the number of folks who have a deep understanding of Corps water supply policy is limited. Losing Amy Frantz was a big loss, and more recent news is also a setback for the Corps-NWSA partnership. Brad Hudgens, who is a technical expert on Corps water supply issues and retains extensive institutional knowledge, has been appointed Acting Chief of Staff at the Corps Institute for Water Resources (IWR). The appointment is characterized as temporary, but a timeframe has not been established. Due to the range of duties for the Acting Chief of Staff, the Corps will likely backfill Brad’s position by hiring a technical and policy lead on water supply. Brad may stay involved in some water supply role, but his interactions with NWSA will be limited.
A more recent addition to the USACE water supply team, Tom Jester, will also curtail his involvement with NWSA. Tom has been promoted to Plan Formulation Section Chief in the Corps Mobile District. He has great interest in water supply issues and will try to continue to stay involved as much as possible.
For now, NWSA will rely heavily on Meredith LaDart; she is the Technical Director of the Water Management and Reallocation Studies Planning Center of Expertise. She is relatively new to NWSA issues, but she has a very strong water supply background. Many of you met Meredith at the NWSA Annual Meeting in Bismarck in August. In addition, Sean Smith, who is the Corps Principal Hydrologic and Hydraulic Engineer, has expressed interest in supporting the USACE water supply team. Fortunately, NWSA enjoys full support from the Chief of Engineers, LTG Scott Spellmon. General Spellmon’s commitment to the NWSA-Corps partnership will help to overcome turnover within the USACE water supply team.
On a related note, the Corps of Engineers is also experiencing turnover in senior leadership at Headquarters. The Director of Civil Works, Al Lee, has announced his retirement. His replacement should be announced by the Corps in the coming weeks. In addition, the Corps has announced that Theodore “Tab” Brown is the new Chief of Programs Integration at Corps HQ. Tab returns to HQ after a stint in the Corps South Atlantic Division.
While challenging, staff turnover at the Corps is not uncommon. It just requires NWSA to continue to educate and build relationships with the Corps -- at HQ, with the water supply team, and with the Corps Divisions and Districts.