As Major General Michael Walsh will soon be finished with his duties as President of the Mississippi River Commission and head to Washington, D.C. to continue his career, here’s a different look at the man who made the difficult decision to activate the Birds Point New Madrid Floodway….
…”I’m from Brooklyn, New York; I went to Brooklyn Technical High School,” said the General in conversation outside of his official press conference held Friday at the Middle Crevasse.
“…in our part of the world you ask people what high school you went to and that tells you where you’re from in different areas, so that’s kind of a New York question you asked, what high school you went to. That’s something we do all the time as opposed to around here where you ask where your family is from whereas in New York they ask where you went to high school. So that was a good question.”
I then followed up with this nugget; KP: “Where did you matriculate in college?
MG Walsh: “I went…my Dad was a bricklayer and he said I could go to college anywhere I could afford myself and the subway would take me to. So the next stop on the subway was a place called Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute of New York, so that’s where I went to my engineering school.”
The talk then turned to the World Series and who his favorite team was…
“I’ve been following the Yankees for more than a little while and my wife is from the Bronx so if I wasn’t a Yankee fan before I married her I certainly am now…”
I then asked the General about his prior posts.
“Prior to taking this command I was commander of the Gulf Region Division in Iraq. I worked directly for General (David) Patreaus and prior to him getting there worked directly for Gen. (George) Casey.
“So I was building infrastructure in that country. Not only water infrastructure but rail, transportation, electricity, schools, hospitals and things of that sort.”
I interjected, somewhat in awe, sounding like a dummy to the General I’m sure, “Iraq?”
Walsh replied, “In Iraq.”
Then, continued on with the interview with not a hint of condescension to my goofy comment.
“Prior to that I was commander of South Atlantic Division; same job that I have here only covered down on the east coast so I was working water resources on that part and we had nine hurricanes during those three years so we spent a lot of time chasing Hurricanes across Florida and there into the Carolinas.”
Walsh will be moving to Washington, D.C., to assume his new post soon.
“I change command on the 10th of November and General Peabody, a really good fellow, John Peabody is coming in from the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division. He’s going to take over for me and really carry it on…he’ll become the President of the Mississippi River commission as well, and I’ll go to Washington and I’ll be the Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations.”
“So, what I’ve been doing here at the center part of the country. I’ll have those responsibilities for the entire country.”
It’ll be in good hands. We then talked on what transpired during the activation of the BPNMF.
“Certainly – and you’ve heard me from the 30th of April – as how to describe this flood. If it’s an epic flood, a historical flood. I kind of look at it now from a white knucke flood. Everybody’s hands were just wringing on did we make the right decision; too early, too late. Did we save lives…
“I can tell you from the other side of making those decisions not a single life was lost and we’re really quite proud of the system that was put in place by those folks after the 1927 flood. They decided to put something likes this together and the nation rallied around and put 13 billion dollars to put the Mississippi Rivers Tributaries Project into effect.”
“So I was really proud to be one of those (MRC) Presidents that were able to operate this (BPNMF) from what people thought about in 1927 and very happy to have this system in place.”
“In 1927, 500 people lost their lives. This year, nobody lost their life.”
I then asked the General, “if we ever have to do this again, we’ll be working off the 2011 revision of the 1986 revised plan based on the original 1927 plan. Isn’t that accurate?l
“Right now we’re putting the system back together as it was authorized by congress and it’s the ’86 plan. We’re not going to update it until we get the additional funds to figure out whether we’re going to leave it in place at 62.5 and explosively operate it or if there’s going to be something else.”
“At this point, we’re putting it in place – funding dependent – at 62.5 and explosively operate the system.”
What is the purpose of the press conference today *(Oct. 21)?
“The discussion today is, one, to come out and look where we are in the progress and renew our committment to get to 51 feet by the end of November and to inform folks that we are able to bring it up 55 feet funding dependent.”
*(Walsh received notification of the approved funding at 1414 hours Oct. 21 just prior to the beginning of the press conference.)
Walsh on the amount of work done by the USACE: “There’s about $22 million worth of funds that have been pushed into this project to put this back to the 51 feet. So a good portion of the funds that have been harvested from across America coming into this…which of the $75 million, $25 million of those funds, one-third of funds available to me are coming right here…”
And, the final question dealt with the significance of the ‘coins’ awarded by the General to USACE workers.
“Considering I have two titles; one is the commander of the Mississippi Valley Division and one is the President of the MRC; the medallion have on one side the commander’s thanks and the (MRC’s) thanks on the other side.”
Glad I got that pertinent issue cleared up. From the looks on the workers who received them, they are cherished items.
I will have a personal look at Colonel Vernie Reichling coming soon on the Kp Chronicle…