By Col. Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District CommanderApril 19, 2018
Significant weather events prompted nationwide efforts to restore both our natural and man-made environments this past year. Given the dynamic nature of today's meteorological conditions, it is more important than ever to devote efforts towards restoring and protecting our environment to maximize resiliency and establish the framework for a sustainable future.
Over this past year, I've had the privilege of leading both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's Recovery Field Office in Florida and Task Force Power Restoration in Puerto Rico in response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria. I have witnessed first-hand the tremendous power of federal, state, and local agencies working together to respond and recover from ravaging storm damage. Together, we've worked across thousand mile supply lines and remote terrain to restore electricity in Puerto Rico. Together, we've worked to re-establish normalcy to our fellow Floridians, which included installation of more than 13,000 temporary blue roofs. This is but a small reflection of the power of unified effort and collaboration.
It is important to focus on protecting and preserving our environment not only during emergency response activities, but every day across our nation. On April 22, we celebrate Earth Day, which the U.S. Amy has participated in since it was first observed in 1970. The Army's theme for Earth Day is "Sustain the Mission/Secure the Future," a theme that is emboldened by our on-the-ground efforts. Your U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District team of professionals works steadfastly to protect and preserve our environment on numerous fronts.
So much that we do within the Corps has far-reaching and lasting value to the nation. Our ongoing efforts to restore America's Everglades is a signature example. This program is improving the health of over 2.4 million acres of south Florida ecosystem, including Lake Okeechobee. The Everglades is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and World Heritage site and serves as a testament of what can be accomplished in the true spirit of partnership and collaboration. We will build off this synergy at the next South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force Meeting planned for this summer in Washington D.C.
Along the Florida coasts, we protect billions of dollars of infrastructure along more than 134 miles of shoreline under our coastal flood risk management program. Under our navigation program, the Jacksonville Harbor Mile Point Navigation Project not only removed navigation restrictions due to difficult crosscurrents in the St. Johns River but also worked to restore approximately 53 acres of salt marsh at Great Marsh Island.
Additionally, under our regulatory program, we partnered with National Marine Fisheries Service to develop a programmatic Biological Opinion covering Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This programmatic instrument will enable more efficient processing of the estimated 40,000-plus Endangered Species Act consultations that we estimate our growing region will require over the permit's five-year duration.
These activities demonstrate the power of our Environmental Operating Principles, which serve as the foundation for all Corps activities across all mission areas. They are embedded in all that we do to strike an intricate balance of protecting our environment while enabling future opportunities. These principles include fostering sustainability as a way of life and leveraging collective knowledge through partnerships and collaboration.
Each and every day we work towards providing engineering solutions to the nation's toughest environmental challenges. Where do you fit into this? Our projects are authorized by Congress as a result of planning efforts that include stakeholder input under the National Environmental Policy Act. I look forward to your input in the coming months as we initiate efforts on supplemental work funded by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
We all possess the power to set conditions for a more sustainable and resilient future. Protecting and preserving the environment for future generations is one of the many ways we are Building Strong.