Hurricane Harvey and the Efforts of Department Employees

Dear Team Interior,
 
I would like to take the time to highlight and thank the entire Department of the Interior team in the Gulf of Mexico and around the Country for their continued efforts in the wake of the catastrophic events caused by Hurricane Harvey.
 
As Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath of tropical storm flooding wreak historic havoc on Texas and Louisiana, hundreds of Department employees are involved in emergency response and recovery activities. 
 
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is leading Federal efforts in support of the State of Texas, the Department is playing a large role in helping Texas through Emergency Support Function missions, including life-saving search and rescue, law enforcement, and providing scientific information vital to emergency managers on the Federal, State, and local levels. All of these emergency support efforts are being monitored and coordinated by our dedicated bureau emergency management coordinators and the Department’s Office of Emergency Management through its 24-hour Operations Center at the Department headquarters. 
 
Department personnel have been providing assistance in multiple ways:
  • As Harvey’s threat became apparent, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement officials worked with industry to keep abreast of offshore evacuations and production shut-in and is now working with industry to prioritize what is required to get energy production back online for the Country in a safe manner.
  • When the flooding started, teams from the U.S. Geological Survey risked their safety to deploy storm gauges, helping our partners at the Federal, State, and local levels track the storm and get a head start on their response.
  • A water specialist and data chief at the Houston Field Office performed 25 critical flow measurements this past weekend.
  • The National Park Service is coordinating dozens of search-and-rescue teams in the flooded communities of Houston and other areas.
  • With 12 national wildlife refuges in the area, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working tirelessly to meet this historic challenge.
  • Federal Aviation Administration-certified pilots from the Bureau of Land Management in Alaska are guiding drones from the Department’s Office of Aviation Services, FWS, BLM, and USGS to locate people in need of help and to survey damage.
  • The Department’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security has assembled Quick Response Teams to help with public safety and security support if needed.
  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs is coordinating with FEMA to determine if there are emergency needs for tribes including the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe of Louisiana, and Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana.
I am immensely proud of how our people have responded. Their bravery, courage, and compassion for our fellow citizens has been on full display this week.  To them I say “thank you” for their unwavering dedication to helping those affected. For thousands of Americans in the grips of this national tragedy, they have made a real difference.
 
Department employees are leading by example. Before, during, and after times of crisis, I know I can count on each of you to serve our Nation and get the job done. I am humbled and honored to be your Secretary.
 
Nearly 1700 Department employees live and work in the affected areas. I want them and those who have deployed there to know that they all have my support, and the support of every single member of the Department family. Despite many suffering their own losses during this disaster, they are showing up at work to help the community day after day.
 
September is National Preparedness Month. With wildfires in the West and the flooding in Texas, I know our resources are stretched thin. Against the backdrop of some of the historic flooding and the wildfires, the message of preparation is as important now as it has ever been.
 
These situations have reminded us how important it is to prepare for any and all catastrophic events, so you will be fully equipped if disaster hits.
 
If there is anything more my office can do, please do not hesitate to ask. I appreciate and thank you for everything you are doing.
 
Thank you,
Ryan Zinke