With each issue, Trib+Water brings you an interview with experts on water-related issues. Here is this week's subject:
Brian Kamisato is a deputy district engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Trib+Water: Do Texas Corps projects provide a significant amount of the state's surface water supply?
Brian Kamisato: Yes, they do. Our reservoirs that we operate in the state provide about one-third of the surface water supply to the state of Texas. As we think about that, we know the state has a growing need for water into the future as the state grows. The state is counting on the water that we’ve impounded in our reservoirs.
Because of that, we have a three-prong approach as it relates to our water supply mission. The first is we need to sustain our infrastructure. So the dams and all the structures that provide for those reservoirs and hold the water, we need to make sure that they’re there for the long run and that they’re resilient.
Second, we want to help with our technical capabilities to support statewide planning as it happens across the state in the various regions and the various water providers. So we have a lot of technical capabilities we can bring to their water planning.
Lastly, we have a regulatory mission to make sure we protect the waters of the U.S., and we are trying to make that process predictable and more consistent. Our partners come forward with opportunities where they want to maybe build new water supply or implement water supply projects. Water for the state of Texas is really important and we are fully committed to supporting that important mission.
Trib+Water: Do Texas Corps projects provide a significant recreational benefit?
Kamisato: In the Fort Worth district, we have sort of the central part of Texas. We have the Metroplex down through San Antonio and so across our 25 reservoirs or lakes that we manage in our district’s footprint, we receive annually about 25 million visitors per year on the recreation side.
That results in about $900 million of economic benefit or activity in or around our lakes. Our recreation program is large and it also drives the economy in and around the lakes we operate.
So it’s a really important thing as well for us. Water safety in our lakes is really important and we want the public to enjoy the recreation opportunities that we provide, but we also want them to be safe while they do that.
Trib+Water: Do Texas Corps projects provide a significant amount of the state's flood control?
Kamisato: In terms of flood, our talking point is that protection of life and property is our highest priority. Of our 25 multipurpose dams, we take great pride in operating those safely to protect the people and property downstream and so flood risk is a major purpose of our structures.
In fact, the Fort Worth district was created in 1950 in response to a significant flood event in Fort Worth; so our district was created because of flood control basically. In 2015, Texas experienced record levels of rain and our dams sort of worked in, designed and delivered all those flood control benefits to prevent $27 billion in flood damages.
Trib+Water: How does the Corps balance these three missions (flood control, water supply, and recreation) in their projects?
Kamisato: These purposes are authorized by Congress, and besides the three mentioned we also have hydropower and environmental stewardship. So in our footprint in the Fort Worth district, we’re responsible and charged by Congress to deliver on all of those authorized purposes.
At each one of our dams, we have regulations and processes in place to ensure that we operate our structures and dams to deliver on all those purposes, and I think our staff does a great job of that.
Here in Texas, we experience a wide range of variability in climate. Sometimes we have long periods of drought and then on the other side there’s long periods of heavy rain. Through it all, our charge is to operate our dams to deliver on all those purposes.
During times of drought, our reservoir levels are impacted. They typically start dropping if there’s no rain and that has an impact on water supply and recreation, so we have procedures and processes in place to manage all of that the best we can.
When it starts raining, then our flood risk and flood control mission sets in and we control the water to prevent property damage and loss of life downstream. I think our multipurpose dams provide great value to the state of Texas, and we work everyday to deliver on all those congressional authorized purposes to provide those benefits.
Trib+Water: What do you see as the future mission of the Corps in Texas?
Kamisato: In the Fort Worth district we have a lot of different missions. We’ve been talking about water resources missions — we call it civil works — and that’s a really important thing for the public here in the state of Texas.
That’s a priority mission for us, but we also provide support to the Army and the Air Force installations here in the state. So, whether it be Fort Hood or down in San Antonio at the Joint Base, we do military construction and support to those installations.
In addition, we also provide interagency support. We have a wide range of missions that go beyond water resources, so as we look into the future, I see the Corps and the Fort Worth district continuing to execute all of those missions and deliver on all of those authorized purposes and mission sets that have been given to us by Congress and the Army.
And so we think, and I think, that the Corps provides tremendous value to the nation, the state of Texas as we deliver on all of those things.