NAVFAC Environmental—a Global Mission
At home and abroad, a dedicated team of 1,700 NAVFAC professionals must ensure that environmental considerations are woven into everything the agency does.
By Larry Douchand, P.E., SES
Seth Berry, Natural Resources Manager at Naval Support Facility Indian Head, Md., assesses the growth of native wetland grasses along the completed first phase of the base’s shoreline stabilization project.
U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY GARY WAGNER
Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) is the U.S. Navy’s Systems Command that builds and maintains sustainable facilities, delivers utilities and services, and provides Navy expeditionary combat forces and capabilities. To help enable this mission, a worldwide team of more than 1,700 environmental engineers, environmental protection and natural resources specialists, scientists and other professionals is ensuring that environmental consideration is integrated into everything we do.
The expertise of NAVFAC’s Environmental Program must be far reaching— from supporting the warfighter in theater, to supporting the Navy in conducting disaster response operations, to enabling combat-ready forces to organize, train and equip on military installations. The organization has to do all this while remaining good stewards of environmental resources and complying with all applicable legal requirements. The mission is diverse, and challenging—and it is carried out every day from the shores of southern Maryland to the fields of Guam, to installations at home and abroad.
The Navy manages diverse ecosystems on the 2.1-million-acres of land that its installations encompass. These locations support more than 100 federally listed species. The Navy’s conservation programs protect these resources, while ensuring that the service can meet its many mission requirements.
A recently finished project on the Potomac River typifies this dual responsibility. Naval Support Facility Indian Head (NSFIH) was founded in 1890 as the Navy’s first established presence in southern Maryland. What began as a gun test facility on the Potomac has evolved substantially over the years, expanding now to include numerous scientific and response-force missions serving all branches of the military. In 2002, NSFIH staff along with NAVFAC developed a Shoreline Management Plan. This plan examined approximately 38,000-ft of shoreline at the installation. It qualified the erosion rates, soil characteristics, current status, threatened infrastructure, mission impacts and opportunities to protect and enhance wildlife habitat. The plan identified shoreline areas in need of immediate intervention and broke them down into four phases.
The plan also recommended a much more comprehensive engineering solution —a living shoreline that would protect both natural habitat and mission critical infrastructure.
Before construction could get underway, a thorough environmental review, regulatory coordination and permitting for the first phase of this project had to take place. These actions were completed in 2006, with construction then beginning in 2007. Repairs included contouring slopes, installation of sill and breakwaters, and the use of 48,200-yd³ of fill material and 23,900-T of stone. At the completion of this initial phase, 3,600-ft of shoreline was protected. Approximately 11-acres of intertidal wetland, shrub and scrub, and riparian habitat were created.
The second phase of the project repaired 5,400-ft of shoreline in 2010. At this location, 500-ft of cobble beach was installed to filter groundwater seepage and provide wildlife benefits. Sills were added to reduce wave impacts to submerged aquatic vegetation. Sediment placed behind the sills and breakwaters created 8-acres of intertidal habitat.
The final two phases of the restoration work at NSFIH were completed during 2011 and 2012. For these last two phases, there was extensive bank grading of the slopes followed by warm season grass planting to stabilize the slopes. Sills were installed and then sediment was added behind the sills to create another large section of intertidal wetland habitat.
Over the course of this multi-year project, 38,000-ft of shoreline was protected with a comprehensive engineering solution. More than 25-acres of intertidal wetland habitat was created and mission critical infrastructure has been protected. While the created habitat now will be monitored for the next several years to ensure it is establishing itself correctly, all current measures indicate that this incoming flora and fauna are restoring the ecological integrity of the site necessary for long-term stability.
RESTORATION AND PRESERVATION
NAVFAC’s Environmental Restoration Program is designed to reduce the risk to human health and the environment from legacy waste disposal operations and hazardous substance releases. The program’s goal is to provide for cost effective and timely site assessment, planning and remediation of identified releases.
The Base Consolidation Unit at Naval Base Guam, Joint Region Marianas, greatly cuts down the number of sites requiring Land-Use Controls and also reduces the high cost of transporting and disposing of waste to a mainland receiver.
PHOTO COURTESY NAVFAC
Site 2a (known as Landfill 2) is the location of the 69-acre Base Consolidation Unit situated adjacent to the Base Landfill at Naval Base Guam, Joint Region Marianas. Non-Resource Conservation and Recovery Act hazardous waste and soil from about 20 Installation Restoration sites is transported to the Consolidation Unit for disposal in trenches and pits, and where it is subsequently covered with gravel and compacted to reduce infiltration.
The Consolidation Unit Management Plan, approved in 2007 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, controls the types of waste and soils that are allowed. These include compatible wastes that were identified during the remedial investigation of the site. However, it does not include disposal of petroleum, oil and lubricant, or solvents, which could mobilize some of the metallic contaminants buried at the location.
Soil cover compaction and integrity is maintained three times annually for any erosion caused by rainfall. The groundwater underlying the entire landfill complex is monitored twice annually. When all Installation Restoration cleanup activities are completed, the Consolidation Unit will be closed, and appropriate land use controls will be implemented. Currently, the site is projected to close in 2014.
Since its inception in 2007, about 115,300-yd³ of waste has been placed in the Consolidation Unit. To have sent this waste from Guam to a mainland disposal facility —at an estimated price of $1,000/yd³ for shipping and disposal—would have cost more than $115 million. By contrast, the solution that was implemented greatly reduces the number of sites requiring appropriate Land-Use Controls. Furthermore, it reduces the significant expense of off-island transport and disposal of waste from Guam to a mainland receiver.
NAVFAC’s Environmental Program delivers quality products and services to the Department of the Navy worldwide, allowing the sustainment of military mission through early environmental planning; regulatory compliance to ensure continued operations on bases; cleanup and restoration of contaminated sites; and conservation of the abundant natural and cultural resources on our installations.
The goals may be complex to achieve, but they are straightforward ideals: maintain environmentally safe and secure facilities for Marines, sailors and their families, and help ensure ready access to realistic testing and training environments for the Navy and Marine Corps.