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Army Corps employee receives Commander’s Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award

Public Affairs
Published Dec. 23, 2015
Robert Smith, a biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, holds a dogfish (a small shark) offshore of the Rockaways in Queens, NY, in 2013.

Robert Smith, a biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, holds a dogfish (a small shark) offshore of the Rockaways in Queens, NY, in 2013.

Robert Smith (PL-E), a biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District for 15 years, has received the Commander’s Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award from the New York City Federal Executive Board for application of scientific knowledge and biological skills in solving challenging compliance issues related to the District’s Coastal Storm Damage Risk Assessment: Studying offshore dredging of sand and placing it at severely eroded areas of coastline on Long Island and New York City. Such projects reduce flood risk and damage from severe storms while preserving environmentally sensitive areas and endangered species.

Recommendation

In a letter of recommendation, Peter Weppler (PL-E), chief, Planning Division, Environmental Analysis Branch, said, “Mr. Smith has demonstrated dedication, technical expertise and leadership addressing present and future CSRM environmental compliance needs,” adding, “Mr. Smith’s achievements reflect his depth, breadth, and mastery of applied science as an ecology professional as well as his incisive problem-solving skills.”

Beach-Nourishment Expert

Robert is a subject matter expert for beach nourishment studies and projects for the south shore of Long Island (east of Manhattan) and lead project biologist for the certification of a landscape/community-based index model quantifying the value of change within Long Island’s barrier-island ecosystem, tallying losses and gains using the Habitat Evaluation Procedure (HEP). With certification expected in early 2016, he has worked closely with outside agencies — U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and National Park Service — bringing this project to fruition.

Work Challenges

When asked about challenges, Smith talked about merging the District’s environmental mission with state and federal regulations. For example, he monitors the movement/habitat of the Piping Plover, a federally-protected shorebird and endangered species occupying Long Island’s barrier beaches from April 1-September 30. This is crucial: there’s on-going beach-restoration projects in those areas. Since the District is prohibited from working in those areas for six months of the year, he tracks the birds — informing the District of their arrival, movements and departure —facilitating project scheduling.

Closing Breaches

Smith also facilitates compliance with the Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies Act (Public Law 84-99), federal legislation authorizing restoration of pre-engineered beaches to pre-storm conditions after severe storm damage. Repairs have been made in the Rockaways (a peninsula in Queens, a borough of New York City), and Fire Island to Montauk Point, an 83-mile stretch on Long Island’s south shore. One significant accomplishment was working closely with state and local officials to quickly close two barrier-island breaches after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, significantly reducing flood risk and damage to mainland communities.

Holding a B.A. in biology and M.A. in education, outside of work he enjoys fishing, scuba diving and snowmobiling with his family. Congratulations and best wishes to a dedicated professional!