Memphis, Nashville districts hold partnering meeting for Tennessee

Col. Michael Ellicott Jr. (Second from Left), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District commander and district engineer, asks questions during a tour of the Nashville District Water Management Center at the district headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 19, 2017. Anthony Rodino, Nashville District acting chief of Hydraulics and Hydrology, briefed Ellicott and Maj. Thomas C. Darrow (Second from Right), Memphis District deputy commander; and Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, Nashville District commander; on the center’s operations. (Photo by Lee Roberts)
Col. Michael Ellicott Jr. (Second from Left), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District commander and district engineer, asks questions during a tour of the Nashville District Water Management Center at the district headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 19, 2017. Anthony Rodino, Nashville District acting chief of Hydraulics and Hydrology, briefed Ellicott and Maj. Thomas C. Darrow (Second from Right), Memphis District deputy commander; and Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, Nashville District commander; on the center’s operations. (Photo by Lee Roberts)

By Lee Roberts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 19, 2017) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis and Nashville districts held a partnering meeting today to build a stronger relationship leading to better service for the state of Tennessee.

The two districts work together with the state of Tennessee and other federal, state and local agencies through the Silver Jackets Program to support flood risk management, disaster preparedness and emergency management initiatives across the state.

As partners in this initiative, Corps officials visited leadership at the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to explore opportunities for improving communication. Briefings also informed leaders about the New Madrid Seismic Zone and Tennessee Levee Inventory Initiative.

Col. Michael Ellicott Jr., Memphis District commander and district engineer, and Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, Nashville District commander and district engineer, met with TEMA Director Patrick Sheehan and the Tennessee Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Terry “Max” Haston, to discuss how the Corps of Engineers can more effectively collaborate.

“Meeting with Director Sheehan and Major General Haston really helps with building a great working relationship between the Corps of Engineers and the state of Tennessee,” Jones said. “The candid discussions, valuable exchange of information, and gaining knowledge about the state’s priorities and processes serves to improve the Corps’ support for the state and fosters communication where we can be more effective partners.”

Following the TEMA visit, the Memphis District contingent visited the Nashville District Headquarters where additional briefings addressed flood risk reduction in Tennessee, statewide regulatory issues, interagency and international services, water management, emergency management, disaster preparedness and navigation.

Elizabeth Burks, Memphis District assistant deputy for Project Management, said the meetings were valuable because it helped all sides to understand how they can collectively work together to benefit the state.

“We looked to TEMA and National Guard to ask them how we can do better to provide services to them,” Burks explained. Networking provided a great opportunity to build bridges when it comes to the missions that each district has, she said.

The visit culminated with a tour of the Nashville District Emergency Management Center and Water Management Center. Dee Rivera, Emergency Management specialist, and Anthony Rodino, acting chief of Hydraulics and Hydrology, briefed Ellicott and Jones on water management operations, capabilities and connectivity between the work centers.

Ellicott said the meetings were great for both districts because they share borders and partners within the state of Tennessee. So teaming up together and with state officials is invaluable, he noted.

“While the state recognizes that there is one door to the Corps, they know that both districts stand ready whenever needed,” Ellicott said. “We’re all here to do what we’re required to do and we’re going to be one team.”

The Memphis District and Nashville District have similar engineering and regulatory functions, but also have distinctive missions.

The Memphis District is responsible for maintaining and improving 355 miles of the Mississippi River main channel and maintains more than 640 miles of mainline levees along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, 10 inland harbors and 254 miles of navigation channel on the White River in Arkansas.

The Nashville District maintains and operates dams, hydropower plants, navigation locks and manages recreation areas and campgrounds in the Cumberland River Basin. The district also operates and maintains navigation locks at Tennessee Valley Authority projects in the Tennessee River Basin.

The partnering meeting between these districts is unique because both organizations serve Tennessee and participate in the Silver Jackets Program, yet are organized under separate command structures. The Memphis District is within the Mississippi Valley Division while the Nashville District falls under the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division.

“We all receive guidance from different leadership in different ways, so being able to cross those division boundaries and share information and build those relationships only allows us to get stronger and get better,” Burks said.

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