CHARLESTON, S.C. — Senior leaders, media and the city mayor gathered outside U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District's headquarters March 26 to fill a time capsule commemorating the District's 150-year history of service to the state and nation.
Among the items placed in the capsule include a key to city, the District's teleworking policy, and a covid vaccination card. Lt. Col. Rachel Honderd, district engineer, also placed a lock of her hair in the capsule to represent the District's diversity in staff and, as the District's first female commander, its leadership.
Charleston District traces its roots back to the USACE's service as the nation's first engineers. The Corps established districts at critical locations, including Charleston, in order to meet the coastal and fortification mission requirements. Now, in 2021, the District is proud to celebrate 150 years of service to South Carolina and the nation.
The first USACE presence in Charleston came in 1821, when troops were sent to the city to construct Forts Sumter, Moultrie and Johnson over a number of years. After some other one-off projects before the Civil War, a permanent USACE office was established in 1871, with Col. Quincy Gillmore serving as the first district commander.
Gillmore was charged with constructing the jetties that still line the entrance to Charleston Harbor today. The goal was to control the flow of the ebb tide to make it easier for ships to enter the harbor. He was also in charge of removing sunken Civil War battleships to make the harbor safe for ships.
This mission has carried on through the District’s history, as the District is still in charge of surveying and maintaining Charleston Harbor for shipping. The natural 12-foot depth of Charleston Harbor has been deepened several times by the District and is currently on its way to 52 feet, which will make it the deepest on the east coast. At that time, any ship will be able to call on the port at any tide. This is just one example of how the District has played a critical role in the growth and prosperity of South Carolina.
After the successful construction of forts in Charleston, the District constructed Camp Jackson in Columbia in 1917. Now Fort Jackson, more than 50,000 incoming soldiers go through Basic Training here each year. Aside from a stretch at the turn of the last century, the District has handled the military construction work at Fort Jackson, having done more than $1 billion since the mission came back in 2008. The District has completed barracks, training facilities and dining complexes for soldiers, but has also built schools, pools and other facilities for the families that live on base. The mission has a bright future as well, with dozens of projects in the works and on the books to get started soon.
The District’s work extends beyond the coast and the military as well, with programs like the regulatory mission. The District’s regulatory division is responsible for balancing economic development with environmental impacts by making decisions on permits for filling wetlands and waters of the United States for development. The District has worked with thousands of South Carolina citizens across the state on individual projects, as well as dozens of major corporations looking to build facilities in the area. In recent years, permits have been granted to companies like Boeing, Google, Amazon, Walmart, Volvo and the Carolina Panthers, just to name a few. The regulatory division continues to work with state partners as well, to ensure that infrastructure across the state meets the growing needs of citizens.
The emergency management team has also dealt with many natural disasters that have struck the coast of South Carolina, including recent storms like Hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Florence, as well as the largest storm to strike the state with Hurricane Hugo in 1989. As with Hugo, when the District was one of the first on the scene and developed a way to temporarily fix a bridge allowing residents back on to Sullivan’s Island, District employees continue to work with federal and state agencies to determine the best possible solutions for hurricane preparedness and response. The emergency management team will continue to conduct exercises with other state and federal agencies to ensure that the best possible solutions are in place for hurricane response. Great partnerships have been central in everything we’ve done for 150 years as we have forged strong ties to community and agency leaders at all levels.
Going forward, the Charleston District has dozens of projects in progress, ranging from addressing coastal storm risk management to building parking decks for veterans. No matter the task, the District is committed to delivering comprehensive solutions through exceptional customer service, collaboration and commitment to quality for another 150 years.
For more photos from the event, visit www.flickr.com/photos/charlestoncorps/albums/72157718555337460.