News: USACE Galveston District spotlight on regulatory supervisor
Story by Sandra Arnold
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Managing operations in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District’s Regulatory Branch of the Corpus Christi Regulatory Field Office isn’t always easy. With wetland issues to be resolved, jurisdictional determinations to be made and violation claims regarding both the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act to be reviewed and investigated, even Supervisor Lloyd Mullins, a 12-year veteran, says though he has his share of difficult days there is no other place he’d rather be working.
“I chose to work in the environmental field when I was in high school,” said Mullins. “Both my mother and my grandmother were nature lovers and at a very early age they instilled within me the love of the outdoors and the desire to learn about and experience nature. As I matured I learned of the need to balance the protection of our dwindling natural resources with economic development and feel that this inherent love of nature and the realization that progress will and must occur have tempered me to fulfill the duties of this job.”
A lifelong coastal biologist, Mullins’ passion for phytoplankton has taken him on a journey from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas as a research assistant, collecting data within the Aransas and Corpus Christi bays systems, to working for the Texas General Land Office as its first field representative along the Texas Coast.
“Things have changed since I first began my career four decades ago,” said Mullins. “I worked for the GLO for over 25 years as a coastal biologist and range and wildlife specialist on their extensive upland holdings in South Texas. I went from being the only field person to ultimately supervising a coastal upland field staff of about 30 people, located in both the Corpus Christi and La Porte field offices.”
Following his retirement from GLO Dec. 31, 2000, he joined the district’s Regulatory Branch one day later, having enjoyed a short-lived 24 hours of retirement. Over the course of 12 years, Mullins has overseen regulatory actions in numerous coastal projects including the Corpus Christi LNG/Cheniere Energy Project (a large natural gas importing/exporting project planned to be situated along the La Quinta Channel in Corpus Christi); large pipeline projects associated with oil and gas development within the Eagle Ford Shale complex; jurisdictional determinations of extensive areas within the expansive sand and mudflat complex along the bay side of undeveloped portions of South Padre Island and several permit actions involving large canal subdivision projects being proposed within Whooping Crane use areas.
With projects spanning several years, Mullins recalls a moment recently that made him think about his participation in a project more than 20 years ago while employed by GLO.
While working with USACE representatives and other state and federal agency staff on the design and permitting of a beneficial use project in Mesquite Bay in Aransas County, Texas, Mullins was part of a team that granted a permit on a project involving oil and gas exploration in which the dredged material from the channel would be used to build a marsh for fishery enhancement and anticipated to be frequented by whooping cranes. Recently, when reviewing a proposal for a new project, Mullins had the opportunity to visit the marsh and observe a family of whooping cranes using the marsh.
“It took many years for the created marsh to develop to the point of serving as habitat for that iconic endangered species, but it was very rewarding to know that I had played at least a small part in its creation,” Mullins said. “It has helped me appreciate that sometimes the rewards of what one does is not realized for many years.”
The USACE Galveston District has a number of projects all along the Texas coast that use dredged material from its maintenance dredging program beneficially to create marsh, restore seagrass and provide bird rookeries, including projects in Galveston Bay, Matagorda Bay, Corpus Christi Bay, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and Laguna Madre.
The Corps will cost-share an oyster reef restoration in Matagorda Bay with The Nature Conservancy in the near future and has initiated a comprehensive study of the upper Texas coast from Sabine to Galveston in collaboration with GLO that will look for opportunities for large-scale ecosystem restoration projects to protect not only habitats but also the Texas coast from storm surge and erosion.
“I like the challenge of trying to problem solve the various projects,” Mullins said. “To work with both a project’s proponents and opponents in order to come up with a permittable project that is not only viable but also protects as many natural resources as possible while compensating for those which cannot be avoided.”
The USACE Galveston District’s Regulatory Branch works to ensure no net loss of wetlands while issuing about 2,500 permits a year and supports ecosystem sustainability as a mission focus for all project development and land management decisions. This focus reflects protection of the state’s natural resources under numerous federal laws, including the National Environmental Protection Act, Clean Water Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, Endangered Species Act, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act and Migratory Bird Conservation Act.
A certified wildlife biologist and honorary Texas Land Commissioner, Mullins earned a Bachelor of Science from Stephen F. Austin State University and a Master of Science from Texas A&M. When he’s not knee-deep in regulatory oversight for the district, he can be found operating a wildlife management and hunting outfitting business on several large South Texas ranches or enjoying time with his wife, son, daughter and baby granddaughter.
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