be self-sustaining within ;ve years. Meanwhile, Mr. Williams had to allocate project resources for writing the reports, which
began to chip away at the project budget.
“We had to be careful that we didn’t
research ourselves out of a construction proj-
ect,” he says. “I anticipated the risk with
perpetuity in the real estate, but I didn’t
anticipate the length of time it would take to
;e project schedule devoted one year to
securing the land, but the process ended up
taking twice as long.
;e Nature Conservancy’s plan to start
with the smaller USACE project and then do
the larger one had to be reversed as the USACE initiative became entangled in
lengthy reviews and approvals required of federal projects.
Fortunately, Mr. Williams’ plan had reserved contingency funds to support
the project during the protracted legal concerns.
“We had a 25 percent contingency planned to keep us a;oat,” he says. “;at
helped fund labor for district employees and was adequate as most of the legal
issues weren’t charged to the project directly.”
Mr. Williams sees it as an important lesson learned, not just
for the USACE should it pursue more environmental projects
like Half Moon, but for himself as a project manager.
“I compared the size of the project to the potential problem,
and you can’t do that,” he says. “;e same law applies to a small
project and a large one, so the solution will take just as long.”
In July 2012, Mr. Williams signed a 60-year lease with two
20-year renewal options.
With the land rights ;nally secured, the USACE team could
focus on the engineering plan. Since the conservancy had
already completed the design work for the other project, it
made sense for the sponsor to craft the engineering plan for
this one. Indeed, that seemed like the easiest way to do it: ;e
experts create the plans, then the government agency approves
them. But it wasn’t.
;e Nature Conservancy and the USACE reviewers went back
and forth repeatedly over the plans. “Dealing with the govern-
ment, we have speci;c ways that we have to write up plans and
specs,” Mr. Williams explains. “;e sponsors needed an adjust-
ment period to properly incorporate our guidelines and regula-
tions. ;ey would work on one set and send it to us, and there
would be so many edits and corrections based on them learning
what was expected.”
After a month of drafts and revisions, Mr. Williams decided to
expedite the process by taking the engineering design in-house.
;is required him to commit additional USACE resources, but
by doing so, the process took only about three weeks to com-
plete—more e;cient and less costly in the end. “;is was also
OF A REEF
n June 2007: The Nature Conservancy of Texas requests funding
from the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers’ Estuary Habitat
n March 2008: The USACE
approves the funding.
n July 2010: Approval of the
n July 2012: After a two-year
process, the project team
obtains access to the bay floor
beneath the reef.
n May 2013: Approval of the
n September 2013: The reef-con-struction contract is awarded.
n December 2013: The contractor begins the construction
n March 2014: Fog delays construction for three weeks.
n April 2014: The Half Moon Reef
project is complete.