SWD’s Regional Planning and Environmental Center Celebrates its 10-year Anniversary

Fort Worth District, USACE
Published May 21, 2024
man with helicopter in Vietnam

RPEC member, John Campbell in Vietnam in 2016 while providing technical (archaeology) support to the State Department and the Department of Defense.

RPEC Master Planners

RPEC master planners Jill Schueckler, Rob Morrow and Eric Lam pose with Army Corps of Engineers' Afghanistan District commander, Col. Jason E. Kelly during a deployment in 2018 to support Operations Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel by executing construction for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

In the mid-2000s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Southwestern Division experienced a significant decline in civil works planning missions throughout the region. The existing model of every district maintaining a fully capable Civil Planning and Environmental function became very challenging during this period.

Consequently, SWD leadership consolidated and streamlined most of its environmental and planning functions into a regional center, focused on efforts in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas.

The Fort Worth District was tasked to become the host of the newly created organization now known as the Regional Planning and Environmental Center on Feb.9, 2014.

The initial charter of the RPEC was to consistently deliver high-quality products, regionally, to all the local sponsors and military services that each district serves, while maintaining robust competencies in the planning and environmental fields.

“In these fiscally restrained times, we must maintain core competencies, disciplines and abilities in the environmental and planning fields to ensure we keep a robust regional organization that can deliver quality services,” said Eric Verwers, the RPEC’s inaugural director from 2024-2017.

Since its inception, the RPEC has supported a wide variety of USACE missions. These include cleaning up formerly used defense sites, supporting flood risk management, restoring ecosystems and supporting new navigation projects. Its program, project, technical and study managers have led economic, environmental and planning components required to support civil works projects.

“RPEC is responsible for all planning and environmental compliance activities of civil works, military, and interagency and international support missions throughout the Southwestern Division’s area of responsibility,” said Fort Worth District’s deputy district engineer, Rob Newman.

Examples include the preparation of National Environmental Policy Act and feasibility study documents for projects such as the Dallas Floodway, the Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay coastal flood risk management project, and the Brazos Island Harbor navigation project near Brownsville, Texas.

“The concentration of mission and resources in a regional center has resulted in unprecedented flexibility for putting resources where and when needed based on regional priorities,” added Newman, who served previously for five years as the RPEC director.

Over the course of its first decade, the RPEC has also expanded its reach throughout USACE, providing both a nationwide and international reach. This reach includes project delivery in all 50 states and 15 other Nations.

“RPEC teams have supported the mission in Spain, Great Britain, Germany, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Korea and Japan to name a few,” said RPEC program manager, Kevin Davee.

“The military master planning capability and environmental/cultural expertise make us a global asset for USACE. In many cases this has meant key expertise on the ground to support warfighters and military readiness not otherwise available,” added Davee.

Although a decline of the Civil Works Planning missions throughout the Southwestern Division was a primary reason to form the RPEC, the establishment of the regional center has resulted in an organization that is very capable of taking on unique and robust challenges now and in the future.

“I think it is important to remember we must remain agile in terms of our mission, people or methods,” said current RPEC director, Mandy McGuire. “We will continuously reevaluate and focus to make sure we are continuing to deliver and are postured to deliver what is required in the future.”

With the first decade under its belt, the RPEC, with flexibility at its core, is poised to provide value to the Southwestern Division and to the Nation for many decades to come.

“RPEC will stay focused on our core purpose and skills in planning and environmental but look for ways to leverage them better. I feel the need for our services remains strong and will continue to grow stronger in the future,” concluded McGuire.