MONTEBELLO, Calif. – Partnership was the keyword Oct. 8 as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District teamed up with the California Army National Guard for a flood-control exercise at the Whittier Narrows Dam Basin.
At the center of the exercise was a simulated levee breach for which the LA District would request assistance from the California National Guard, which used their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to deliver four 3,000-pound-capacity sandbags to a designated spot next to the San Gabriel River Spillway – simulating flood mitigation during high enough water levels that would make a non-airborne delivery unrealistic or unsafe.
A small group of socially distanced visitors from state and local agencies attended the exercise to witness the collaboration in real time. Minutes before the exercise, Col. Julie Balten, Los Angeles District commander, addressed the guests.
“Although today’s demonstration is a mock scenario, we never know when we will need to respond to a real-world event,” Balten said. “The Corps does this often, deploying every year in support of disaster response during floods, hurricanes and other disasters worldwide. The California National Guard does this as well – most recently assisting the state in its fight against the California wildfires.”
Balten said the possibility of flooding in California is always a concern, especially during the region’s rainy season. With the help of the Emergency Management Branch, the LA District responds to flooding events not only in Southern California, but throughout the district footprint in Arizona and parts of Nevada and Utah.
Partnership, she said, is the key to success in those responses.
“The importance in responding to any disaster – whether manmade or natural – is to coordinate early and often with other agencies before an emergency happens,” Balten said. “That is another reason why we are here today – to demonstrate the Corps’ and the National Guard’s joint flood-fighting capabilities and what agencies can accomplish when we work together.”
Also speaking before the exercise was Capt. John Gomez, commander of Company B, 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, from Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, California.
“As aviation, we are a unique asset that can provide hard-to-find solutions to complex problems,” Gomez said. “My team at JFTB Los Alamitos and all the California National Guard train regularly throughout the year with the Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the U.S. Forest Service to ensure a unity of effort. Our exercise today helps ensure a safe and expedient response when called in a real-world emergency.”
Flooding may not be at the forefront of people’s minds during a time when levees are dry and emergency crews throughout California are fighting wildfires, said Jacob Van Tine, lead emergency manager planner for the LA District, but it’s important to always be prepared to work together in such an emergency.
“For emergency management at local, state and federal levels, we all have a part,” Van Tine said. “To know that we have these relationships in place and we’re doing things to make all of our citizens safer as a team is huge.”