An ongoing Army Corps and Army Reserve partnership could result in significant savings on a Loyalhanna Lake road repair project and more realistic training for combat engineers.
The agreement, initiated three years ago, brought 21 Soldiers and construction equipment from the 340th Engineer Co., New Kensington, Pa., to the lake on July 13 and 14 to improve the Sportsman Access Area Road. Another visit by the unit is scheduled for early September and is expected to finish the job.
“Once the road work is completed, visitors such as hunters, hikers, sightseers, etc., will be able to access this area much easier,” said Loyalhanna Ranger Tom McAfoose.
According to McAfoose, approximately $3,700 worth of labor costs* were saved for the eight hours of work performed in July, and the expectation is the next visit will net an equal or greater amount of savings.
“The benefits of partnering with Army Reserve units are that the Corps provides Soldiers the opportunity to conduct training to maintain and improve their skills,” said Lt. Col. David Wong, Commander, 458th Engineer Bn., Johnstown, who visited the site during the training.
Wong, who is also a Corps civilian employee, said the relationship supports both the Army and the Corps’ campaign plans.
“Army Reserve Soldiers perform work that is often deferred. This partnership allows Soldiers to train on federal property, while maintaining and improving Corps facilities in a period of fiscal austerity,” Wong said. “This benefits the local communities, the Corps, and the Army Reserve.”
The road is about one-and-a-half lanes wide and is a gravel and mud (Loyalhanna) township road that goes onto federal property. It has had issues with drainage and potholes, said Loyalhanna and Conemaugh Lake Resource Manager Paul Toman.
“They did some work on the ditches last year, so it would drain better and not result in all the potholes. This year we met with them and found they were available three weekends,” Toman said.
Gravel for the project was purchased from a local quarry, said Toman. The troops were able to use about 30 tons of it to improve the road after transporting it to the site from the quarry, he said.
If the gravel were already in place for the unit’s next visit, Toman said, this would increase the amount of time the Soldiers could use actually fixing the road.
The Corps’ relationship with the Army Reserve in the Pittsburgh District goes back at least 15-20 years, according to Toman. He believes the initial effort was initiated by the Reserve.
“What they were looking for were sites where they could do maneuvers, training and use equipment. They graded roads, and constructed roads and parking lots,” Toman said. “Even before a project starts, they’ll come out, sit and talk, and do a site visit. They can get a lot accomplished when there is good coordination and planning.”
* The labor rate is based on independent sector figures and Bureau of Labor Statistics data adopted by the Corps and other federal agencies to determine the value of volunteer labor.