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Louisville engineers survey desert terrain at Fort Bliss

Published Aug. 5, 2013
The Louisville District partnered with the USACE Huntsville Center to conduct a survey of the Castner Range at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The Louisville District partnered with the USACE Huntsville Center to conduct a survey of the Castner Range at Fort Bliss, Texas.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Louisville District staff members Craig Coombs, environmental scientist and Aaron Steele, environmental engineer recently partnered with the USACE Huntsville Center (HNC) to conduct a survey of the Castner Range at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The pair joined four other USACE experts — two from Huntsville District and two from Fort Worth District — to conduct the 2,500-acre survey June 10-12.

The survey, a search for anomalies or Munitions of Explosive Concern (MEC), consisted of visual and electromagnetic components with a metal detector.

A digital grid was laid out over the property boundary on 50-foot intervals to survey the acreage. "The two teams, each with one person from Louisville, one from Ft. Worth, and one from Huntsville split up and walked the grid pathways," said Steele. "Each team had a hand-held device with a GPS locator on it that we could follow to the next point on the grid."

As the teams would navigate from one grid point to the next they would perform a visual inspection and sweep with the metal detector. "At 100-foot intervals we would record, on the GPS device, any anomalies that were found," said Steele. "This data was geo-referenced and recorded into an ArcGIS database in real time as we were entering the data we collected."

The next step to completing the survey is to finish surveying a small portion of extremely rugged terrain that wasn’t able to be surveyed due to access restrictions. Coombs and Steele have offered their services to help complete the un-surveyed portions at a later date.

"The ultimate goal of the survey will be to make a recommendation to the decision makers on if additional investigations are warranted and if a risk to users of the site exists," said Coombs.

Additionally, this survey also served as a great training opportunity for the Louisville District staff members. "Our environmental engineering branch doesn’t have the same area of expertise in the Military Munitions Response Program (MMRP) realm that they do," said Steele. "Identifying MEC and running the electromagnetic device is something that we still have to become familiar with.

"More partnering like this survey and additional training would be a path towards becoming more valuable to the Huntsville Center," said Steele.