Cecil Cox, Stephen Caldwell and Mike Johnson, emergency management specialists with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are members of a group from the Huntington District who deployed for two weeks in November to support the Emergency Support Function #3 temporary housing mission. The three, with boots on the ground in Maui, completed the initial groundwork and will now provide “reachback” support from their home district.
The $1.9 million mission assignment, received by USACE from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Oct. 28, is to provide design and construction management for temporary housing sites for those displaced by the Aug. 8 wildfires on Maui.
“With the housing mission usually being one of the last missions assigned to USACE by FEMA, our team understands the importance of leaning forward to get the final design completed and sent to the assigned contracting office,” Cox said. “We hope our hard work and dedication to the mission assignment results in the timely completion of temporary housing for those who were affected, and we hope those individuals feel a sense of regularity as they heal.”
Members of the Huntington District team began the initial design in Maui and performed deed research for each site as well as boundary work, topographical surveys and initiated contact with local water, electric, sewer, drainage and highway authorities.
“Contacting local agencies and setting up recurring meetings with our design team, local authorities and FEMA during the design process helps alleviate any potential challenges early on,” Johnson said. “Finding and resolving issues that may be detrimental to a site is key to ensure the mission is successful.”
Additionally, environmental reviews were conducted on each site to ensure any avoidance measures, coordination, and/or permitting were considered. This information was used to determine the serviceability of FEMA selected sites and feasibility for temporary housing.
“Having completed multiple missions together, we have learned what each of us needs to complete the puzzle,” Caldwell said. “We have a unique bond that just works!”
After completing their assignments on Maui, Cox, Johnson and Caldwell, have returned to their home district and are “reaching back” to support different aspects of the mission as they complete the final design.
Cox is working as a National Environmental Policy Act specialist. He coordinates with FEMA and other agencies to ensure all applicable environmental laws are considered and incorporated in the final design plans.
Johnson is working with the civil site designer and interacts with FEMA and local authorities on Maui to ensure the team delivers a functional, constructable site or sites that meet expectations. He is also providing information to other USACE team members such as NEPA specialists, cost engineers and management personnel, as well as providing engineering support during construction.
Caldwell is processing land survey data and managing additional land survey needs. He is also assisting the design engineer with civil site design.
Cox, Johnson and Caldwell regularly communicate with personnel and agencies they met while on Maui, USACE subject matter experts and the Recovery Field Office. Using lessons learned from past deployments and information gathered in Maui, they will complete the final site design in Huntington.
“There is a sense of accomplishment when you know the long days and hard work are benefitting individuals who have suffered a great loss,” said Cox. “Without the full support of Jason Ritter, our Emergency Management chief, none of this would be possible.”
USACE has received FEMA authorization to proceed to full design on two sites and is awaiting approval to go to contracting and construction on one or both sites.