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Posted 11/2/2017

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By Holly Kuzmitski

VICKSBURG, Miss. (Oct. 24, 2017) Edward “Lamar” Jenkins, director of public works at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi, was recently deployed to coordinate debris removal efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Less than one week after Harvey’s landfall on the Texas coast, Jenkins arrived in Austin to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the debris removal effort, spending about a month in the area.

“I am a subject matter expert for the debris removal cadre assigned to the Mississippi Valley Division and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters,” Jenkins said. “When an event hits, I deploy within six hours to wherever FEMA needs me. I’ve been to the furthest reaches of the U.S., including Alaska, in this capacity.”

Jenkins said that his position is to coordinate technical assistance requirements for FEMA. “These requirements come in the form of mission assignments.”  

“In support of the Hurricane Harvey clean-up effort, a Corps debris team from Sacramento and the management cell from Vicksburg District were deployed,” he said. “There were 30 to 35 personnel in Austin for debris removal during my assignment.”  

“I was initially tasked with the direct federal assistance mission, which is debris removal from beginning to end, but when Hurricanes Irma and Maria formed, I was then responsible for coordinating the technical assistance mission for Hurricane Harvey in Texas. We had three teams with anywhere from six to 12 members each that were located in the Houston area, in the southern area around Corpus Christi and in the Beaumont area.” 

Jenkins said that both the debris removal and the monitoring of the debris removal efforts were contracted out by the local counties and cities. “Our purpose was to provide technical assistance to the applicants in the form of training or assisting in estimating the quantity of debris in their areas. “We were also providing daily reports to FEMA on our observations in the field concerning all aspects of debris removal.” 

“Estimating the amount of debris removal required was essential in order for the local government bodies to get reimbursed by FEMA for their debris removal costs.”  

“FEMA estimated 30,000,000 cubic yards of debris were generated by the event, based on the number of households affected. Most of the debris was from the flooding, although there was wind-damage debris where Hurricane Harvey came onshore in the southern areas of the state.” There were approximately 39 counties in the declared area.

Jenkins said that the management skills and the construction and contracting background that he has developed during his tenure with the Corps and that he continues to develop at ERDC were essential for this assignment. “We had oversight from Corpus Christi to Beaumont, Texas. I pulled it all together and put the right people in the right places — as an ERDC manager having personnel in different parts of the country, such as Hanover, New Hampshire, and Champaign, Illinois, I try to keep my managerial skills sharp for situations like this.”

Jenkins said that he felt the effort was very worthwhile. “I consider our contribution successful in the sense that the two most important phases in a debris removal operation are getting it started and getting it completed,” he said. “We were able to play an important role in getting this one started.”

According to the Corps Headquarters website, under the National Response Framework, the Corps is designated as the primary agency for Emergency Support Function #3 – Public Works and Engineering.

Disaster Response emergency operations ERDC Jenkins USACE