Look up the 1994 presidential task force report on the causes and outcomes of the severe Mississippi River floods the year before and you’ll find the title, “Sharing the Challenge: Floodplain Management Into the 21st Century.” But to many leaders in the water infrastructure field, it’s simply the “Galloway Report,” named for the panel’s executive director, Gerald Galloway, then a brigadier general.
That Galloway’s name would be synonymous with what today remains a blueprint for effective water resources management is more than just a nod to a man who chaired meetings. For nearly half a century, Galloway’s work has centered on engineering and construction policies dealing with water, the country’s most critical, yet dynamic, natural resource.
“Gerry is widely recognized as the most astute thinker in water resources and management,” says longtime U.S. Army Corps of Engineers colleague Ed Link, winner of ENR’s 2007 Award of Excellence. “He has unrelentingly poured himself into the more difficult challenges we face.”
Galloway’s lengthy resume includes nearly 38 years of service in the Corps, ranging from Vicksburg District engineer to representing the agency at forums examining Hurricane Katrina and new directions for disaster management. He also held teaching and academic leadership appointments at his alma mater—the U.S. Military Academy—and the National Defense University. Moreover, Galloway has spent time in the private sector; served on numerous water resources-related advisory boards and committees; and collected an impressive collection of awards and honors.
At 80, a time when most have left their 9-to-5 careers behind, Galloway’s expertise is still in demand. He remains a respected teacher and active researcher as Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering at the University of Maryland. He also is a consultant to U.S. and overseas agencies that are wrestling with not having enough water or, potentially, too much, because of flood risks from natural disasters and climate change.
“We kid him about being the Energizer Bunny, because of his high level of activity,” says Link, a fellow Maryland faculty member. “He has become a senior statesman, a voice for what the nation needs to do when it comes to dealing with disasters, drought, excess water and water quality.”
Galloway’s career course has continued and complemented that of his father, Gerry Sr., who spent 37 years in the Corps and reached the rank of major general. In fact, the Galloways are the only father and son to have received presidential appointments to the Mississippi River Commission, which oversees Corps flood control, navigation and environmental activities in the Lower Mississippi Valley.
“I tell students that if you find something you like and pretty much keep following that path, you can continue to hold on to it for a lifetime,” Galloway says. “You’ll always find opportunities to do something.”
Managing water in all its forms and volumes has provided Galloway with a steady flow of opportunities to apply his expertise and systems perspective. His research topics range from an analysis of the National Dam Safety Program to the adequacy of current standards for flood insurance and flood risk mitigation.
In recent years, Galloway has paid particular attention to infrastructure resilience—how systems can withstand the impact of climate change and increasingly severe natural disasters. Or as he puts it, “the ability to take a punch and get right back up.”
Galloway explains that in earlier eras when public works funding was plentiful, fortification could be built into infrastructure systems to mitigate flood risks. The funding picture has changed. “We gave that up when the budgets started being routinely cut,” he says. If resilience had been incorporated into building New Orleans’ levees, for example, they probably would have performed much better during Hurricane Katrina.
“It might not have prevented the entire disaster,” Galloway says, “but I have no doubt the damage would have been less severe.”
Having been based in metropolitan Washington, D.C., for much of his career, Galloway has seen more and more examples of infrastructure’s limited resiliency in the Mid-Atlantic region. He and his colleagues at the University of Maryland’s Center for Disaster Resiliency note that some of the most costly storms were Category 2 or weaker when they made landfall, including Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Though Sandy’s effects on the region were relatively mild compared with the heavy blow that it dealt farther north, it nevertheless exposed potentially dangerous infrastructure vulnerabilities that lesser storms only hinted at. Chief among them is persistent flooding in parts of Washington, D.C., that were reclaimed from the Potomac River in the 19th century.
“The nation’s capital is not well prepared for the next big disaster,” Galloway says. “We have to think bigger.”
Equally important infrastructure threats are climate change and the effect rising sea levels may have on urbanized coastal areas such as Norfolk, Va. That city is home to the world’s largest naval base and multiple shipping operations and thus faces the possiblity of storms affecting military readiness.
“What if sea levels make it difficult to load ships or access key areas?” Galloway asks. “And can you count on the infrastructure of surrounding communities? These are all issues that have to be examined and planned for.”
His view is that infrastructure systems, and the need for a coherent national water policy, should be facilitated, not dictated, by the federal government. That concept resonates with water resources specialists such as Joe Manous, group manager and future directions team leader for the Corps’ Institute for Water Resources.
“We need to think broader about what we’re comfortable with,” explains Manous, who considers Galloway a mentor since their time on the West Point faculty. “Everybody has to come to the table and be willing to find common ground to make intelligent decisions with long-term benefits.”
Galloway is well-suited to advance that mission. He and his colleagues have been working to spread the message of infrastructure resiliency at professional association meetings and on Capitol Hill.
“He doesn’t make defining speeches, but rather presents a consistent message that conveys long-standing fundamentals in a relevant way,” Manous says. “He tells you what’s needed and why, including things that are practical and others that may not be so easy. It’s why people continue to consult with him.”
Link agrees, saying, “Gerry’s right on top of climate change, which is typical. He always gravitates to issues that are most important to the country.”
Galloway explains that it’s simply a matter of overcoming the proverbial “failure to communicate” so that the public and policy makers understand the need for more infrastructure funds.
“Yes, it will cost something,” he says, “but the incremental extra cost of resilience has a big payback.”
Galloway has no plans to slow down. His 2016 calendar is already crowded with consulting assignments, industry talks, research projects and classroom instruction. All are important, he says, but the time spent teaching gives him the greatest pleasure.
“Nothing’s more satisfying than having someone tap me on the shoulder, say he or she was in my class and tell me I was right,” Galloway says. “If you’re able to pass on two nuggets of information as a teacher, you’re doing well.”