GRAFENWOEHR, Germany, Sept. 7, 2011 -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District is working in cooperation with Bavarian environmental authorities, the U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr and German government construction agencies to keep Grafenwoehr's waters in check by repairing two dams.

The dams were built by German troops prior to World War I making them over 100 years old. During a routine safety inspection conducted in 2009 the dams were found to be deficient. Today, repair work is underway, explained Peter Barth, the Europe District regional program manager.

Largely undeveloped, Grafenwoehr Training Area is refuge to a variety of animal and plant species. These species thrive in an environment supported by two sizeable ponds- Schlatterweiher and Hammerweiher.

"Here in Grafenwoehr there is a lot of water -- wetlands, creeks and ponds," said Barth. "Some of the [survey] findings were critical. The dams are not in perfect condition."

The dams, embankments of compacted earth material, were constructed prior to the days of German or American flood safety standards. Additionally, compaction devices 100 years ago were not as efficient as they are today. Over time, the earthen material has worn down and the emergency overflow structures have been damaged.

The current conditions of the dam structures and drains are insufficient, according to Barth. Although the dams have functioned safely in the past, some work is required to ensure they will withstand heavy storm conditions in the future.

In fact, at the Schlatterweiher dam one of the overflow drains is not working properly. It is important to repair the drain so that the dam is not negatively impacted by overflowing water, said Barth.

The garrison came to USACE with year-end money to repair the deficient dams, explained Andrea Hoesl, a U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Department of Public Works project manager.

USACE and the DPW are taking measures to stabilize the dams and mitigate potential flooding downstream, she said.

It is critical to control the water when heavy rainfall occurs so that the water is not eroding the dam structure, Barth added.

"Basically we want to install some gutters," he said. "We do not want to touch anything of the remaining structure."

USACE is currently managing the $380,000 repair, cleaning and grubbing of the dams. The project scope is limited to critical repairs but USACE will also provide plans for reoccurring maintenance in compliance with host nation environmental standards. This water project is unique for the district.

"It is the first dam repair project managed by USACE here," Barth said.

In Grafenwoehr and throughout Europe, Africa and the Near East USACE primarily focuses on military construction.

"Our mandate is to assist the garrisons to construct military facilities," said Terry Bautista, district chief of engineering and construction.

So while USACE has completed over 80 military construction projects totaling $800 million in Grafenwoehr, the dam repair project is the first of its kind.

"Under the right conditions we can do civil works, we are not purely a military organization," Bautista explained. "We can do a little bit of both."

USACE is flexible and has the capability to execute a wide range of projects according to Bautista.

"We try not to limit ourselves to a specific function," he said. "We can mold or blend our expertise into whatever we are tasked to work on."