Wehr named Mississippi River Commission president

Published 11:02 am Monday, August 10, 2015

Maj. Gen. Michael C. Wehr, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division, has been appointed president of the Mississippi River Commission by President Barack Obama.

His appointment was one of two on the commission. The president also appointed Brig. Gen. Richard G. Kaiser, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, headquartered in Cincinnati.

“It’s an honor to serve upon the shoulders of previous MRC presidents,” Wehr said. “I look forward to continuing the long and proud legacy of service to our nation and its water resources that my predecessors have created. My wife Deborah and I feel blessed that we have been given the opportunity to live and serve once again in the great and historic city of Vicksburg.”

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He commended the Mississippi Valley Division employees for their work, calling it “exceptional.” Our nation relies upon effective and efficient navigation, flood risk management and hydropower – all in concert with fish and wildlife, environmental stewardship, recreation, irrigation and water supply.

“Looking forward, the MVD mission is nested in America’s opportunity for future growth as we continue to invest in our nation’s infrastructure,” he said.

The Mississippi River Commission is an advisory body created by an act of Congress June 28, 1879, to plan and provide for the general improvement of the entire length of the Mississippi River. Its members are appointed by the president and evaluated by the U.S. Senate. The commission includes three officers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a representative from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and three civilians, two of whom must be civil engineers.

“I sense a true optimism for future investments in our nation’s rivers and ports. I look forward to hearing soon from the Mississippi River’s many stakeholders and concerned citizens during our upcoming MRC low-water inspection trip,” Wehr said. “What a great example of democracy in action through the MRC’s mission of ‘listening, inspecting, partnering and engineering.’”

Wehr took command of the Mississippi Valley Division in August 2014, coming from Afghanistan, where he served as director of the Joint Engineering Directorate, United States Forces-Afghanistan, and commander of the Transatlantic Division (Forward), Afghanistan. He led his first Mississippi River Commission inspection trip along the Mississippi River in March.

As Division commander and engineer, he is responsible for a $2 billion civil works program that includes all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water resources development in the Mississippi River basin, which covers more than 370,000 square miles, including all or parts of 12 states. He also plays a role in managing the Corps water resources program in the Mississippi River Valley.

The division’s projects are carried out by district offices in St. Paul, Minn.; Rock Island, Ill.; St. Louis; Memphis, Tenn.; Vicksburg; and New Orleans.

The commission’s general duties include recommending policy and work programs, studying and reporting on modifications or changes to the Mississippi River and Tributaries project, commenting on matters authorized by law, making inspection trips, and holding public hearings that facilitate exchanges of viewpoints and ideas between the public and the MRC.

It works with other water resource interests in the Mississippi River watershed that is influenced by the drainage of more than 41 percent of the United States and two provinces of Canada.

Wehr graduated from the University of Santa Clara (Calif.) in 1985 with a bachelor of science in civil engineering and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He has a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, was a senior service college fellow at the Senior Service College Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He is a graduate of the United States Army Command and General Staff College and is a registered professional engineer in Virginia.

He served in engineer battalion assignments as a lieutenant at Ford Ord, Calif., in the 14th; as a captain at Fort Bragg, N.C., in the 307th; as a major at Fort Stewart, Ga., in both the 92nd and the 11th; and returned back to Fort Bragg as a lieutenant colonel to command the 307th Engineer Battalion in Operations Iraqi Freedom.

He served with the 82nd Airborne Division as the chief of the Modular Force Coordination Cell for the Transformation of the division. Other engineer assignments include the Japan Engineer District, U.S. Pacific Command and the Vicksburg District.

Wehr has received the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Master Parachutist Badge, the Ranger tab and the Sapper tab.

Kaiser took command of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division Sept. 26, 2014. The division has seven engineer districts totaling over 4,100 people operating in a 17 state area and is charged with directing federal water resource development in the Great Lakes and Ohio River basins with infrastructure valued at over $80 billion.

As commander of the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, Kaiser is responsible for directing federal water resource development in the Great Lakes and Ohio River basins, which consist of seven engineer districts that operate in a 17-state area.

The division has an annual operating and construction budget exceeding $2 billion, missions include planning, construction and operations of navigation structures and flood damage reduction, hydropower, environmental restoration, water conservation, recreation and disaster assistance.

The division also executes military construction in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan with design and construction of barracks, hospitals, airfields and family housing on military installations.

Kaiser received his commission in 1987 after graduation from Marquette University with a degree in civil engineering. He has a master’s degree in engineering management from the University of Missouri-Rolla and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College. His military education includes the Engineer Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the British Army Staff College and the U.S. Army War College.

Kaiser previously served as the deputy chief of staff for operations, Allied Rapid Reaction Corps in England, chief of staff 82nd Airborne Division, and commander of the 20th Engineer Brigade at Fort Bragg, N. C., and Operation New Dawn in Iraq.

In another Corps-related appointment, Vicksburg District officials hired Ellis Screws as chief of its Construction and A&E Branch of the Contracting Division.

Screws will be the contracting officer responsible for awarding contracts for construction and architectural and engineering services for the Vicksburg District.

Before his selection, he was a contract specialist in the district’s Contracting Division. In this position, he was responsible for the awarding contracts of all types, procuring supplies and services, and supporting the various projects throughout the district. His career with the Corps began in May 2009.

A native of Rolling Fork, he is a graduate of Rolling Fork High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master’s in business administration from Mississippi College.

Ellis and his wife Karen have three children, and
he is the son of the Tate Frank Screws and Wanda Monday of Rolling Fork.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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