Many may be unaware, but one of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ more common missions throughout our country is environmental stewardship. The Memphis District is one of many districts to work closely with other environmental and regulatory agencies to protect existing natural resources, cultural assets, historic sites, and endangered species.
In executing this critical mission, the Memphis District, along with hired labor teams, recently completed extensive scour repairs and debris removal to assist with protecting wildlife within the Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge, located in Mississippi County, Arkansas.
“The Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1915 and is primarily made up of over 11,000 acres of swamp, open water, and bottomland hardwoods,” Project Manager Jairus Stroupe explained. “This area, like many within the St. Francis Basin, was formed by the 1811/1812 New Madrid earthquakes.”
The Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge is part of the extensive St. Francis Basin Flood Control Project, and it extends well into the bootheel of Missouri.
“Water from approximately 2,000 square miles of the Missouri bootheel enters Big Lake through a number of large manmade ditches within the Little River Drainage District,” Stroupe added.
Included in that passing water is tree limbs and manmade refuse, which amasses over time at a trash rack structure in the lake. Accumulation over time causes scouring. And so, after extensive scour damage was observed and noted in 2019, the refuge cleanup and repair project were propelled into action.
Without the project, debris entering on the north end of the lake would have continued to accrue, causing negative environmental impacts.
The project was completed an entire year ahead of schedule, with zero safety incidents.
This job was possible thanks to the coordination with Refuge Manager Steven Rimer, hired labor team members Charlie Mooney, Kenny Burden, and Kevin Williams, and the District’s Project Delivery Team.
The PDT members are Project Manager Jairus Stroupe, Construction Quality Assurance Specialist Shaun Bass, Civil Engineer Bio Dambo for design, Technical Lead/Geotech John Hudson, Structural Engineer Tarris Greer, and Structural Engineer Marneshia Richard.
“Thanks to Marneshia Richard, for her coordination with the St. Louis District structural team who performed critical inspection and analysis of the structures bridge to ensure the project could be constructed safely,” Stroupe added.
The project was so appreciated, the Refuge Manager went out of his way to send a message to Memphis District Commander Col. Zachary Miller, thanking him for the team’s exceptional work.
“I wanted to inform you of the excellent work that was done by your staff at Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge,” Refuge Manager Steven Rimer began. “The work crew led by Charlie Mooney along with Jairus Stroupe organizing to put the work crew on the ground went very smoothly. The crew was respectful of the Refuge, its visitors, and staff. They did an excellent job clearing the trash rack and repairing a scour around the trash rack. They completed these rather difficult tasks quickly and safely.”
The manager said the trash rack is very important because it collects woody debris and human refuse, preventing these materials from entering the Refuge and causing harm to wildlife.
“I want to make sure you know how much I appreciate this work being completed and look forward to a continued cooperative partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Rimer added.
The Memphis District appreciates all the people involved in this important project as well. Thank you and congratulations on another important project done well.