U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Calls in Oregon Wing for Aerial Survey Flight
New commanders of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District conducted an aerial survey of Willamette Valley dams and reservoirs during a flight provided Sept. 15 by Civil Air Patrol’s Oregon Wing.
CAP Col. Brian Bishop served as mission pilot for the flight with Col. Dale Caswell, Jr. Army Corps district commander, and his deputy commander, Lt. Col. Katie Werback, along with the district’s operations project manager, Erick Petersen.
Caswell took command of the Portland District in July and wanted to understand the Willamette Valley system mission.
“The flight gave Caswell a better understanding of the Portland District geography assets,” Petersen said. “This, along with topography of our area of responsibility and proximity of our assets to infrastructure and communities, was also helpful to the colonel.”
In a memo to the Oregon Wing, Petersen said, “The mission of the survey was to orient Caswell and Werback to the system of Willamette Valley dams and reservoirs, developed between 1939 and 1969, to manage flood risk for communities on the Willamette River and its tributaries. The system is comprised of 13 dams and reservoirs and prevents about $2 billion in damages due to flooding on an average annual basis.”
“This pre-flood season flyover was a great opportunity to review changes on the landscape since the 2020 wildfires that hit the McKenzie and North Santiam sub-basins particularly hard,” Petersen said. “The fires changed the hydrology affecting system reservoirs and basin flood risks.
“Seeing the effects of the fires from the air helped facilitate a better understanding of the changes to the context of our mission.”
Heavy smoke from wildfires kept the aircraft out of the McKenzie basin, but the passengers got “a great view of most of the system’s dams and reservoirs” in a short amount of time, Petersen said.
“We will find an opportunity to get back in the air and see the McKenzie basin as well, when the current fires and smoke subsides,” he said.
“It was the easiest (most seamless) flight venture I’ve undertaken in my 35 years with USACE and produced a very successful day,” Petersen added.
“Civil Air Patrol has a unique mission and is an incredibly supportive partner, enabling us to easily get out and see a different view of our area of responsibility. We’re thankful for the opportunity we had on Sept. 15th and look forward to continuing partnering in the future.”
Capt. Timothy Vaughn
Assistant Public Affairs Officer