This past October, two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) hydraulic engineers traveled to Africa to share knowledge and expertise on flooding related issues.
Steve England and Jake Helminiak of the USACE Philadelphia District traveled to Chad in North Central Africa to meet with Chadian armed forces and government officials, along with both U.S. and French forces, to discuss flooding issues near Camp Kossei. The two engineers had previously traveled to the Kingdom of Eswatini in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2019 for a separate water security mission, so revisiting the continent was a familiar opportunity.
England and Helminiak visited Camp Kossei as well as the capital city of Chad, N’Djamena, along the Chari River, where Camp Kossei is located. Over the past 15 years, these areas have experienced significant flooding that has impacted base operations.
Helminiak stated, “Their problems are twofold—big river flooding and inland flooding. As they expand Camp Kossei, they are trying to be forward thinking in terms of utilizing existing wetlands onsite and incorporating landscape features to minimize impacts. Sometimes we don’t even see that in the US. It was refreshing to see how aware they are of impacts of development on flooding.”
Before taking any actions to expand the Camp Kossei, Chadian officials have sought help from partners in managing flood risk.
England and Helminiak were tasked by the USACE North Atlantic Division and U.S. Africa Command with the development of a draft feasibility-level report in Fiscal Year 2024. They said it was important to first gain an understanding of flooding issues and the current approach used by Chadians. This information is crucial and helps inform recommendations and best practices to assist in managing flood risk.
Initial recommendations from the visit are employing flood warning systems to enable a more proactive flood management approach and the installation of newer, more robust infrastructure to limit high river water from flowing into the city. Although currently conceptual, capital improvements such as stormwater backflow prevention or longer-term options like river training structures or dredging are preventive measures that could be beneficial.
This initial engagement was successful as Helminiak and England heard great feedback from the State Department and high-level officials in the Chadian military. “When we were over there, everyone treated us with respect and appreciated [our presence], including the residents and the military,” said Helminiak. “It seems our visit wasn’t purely just engineering – it’s part of showing the U.S. is a good partner and willing to help.”
A second engagement is likely to occur virtually to discuss additional potential solutions. England described the trip to Chad as a “successful and unique experience,” and is hopeful that USACE’s presence can assist the country with managing flood risk in the future.