RIDGETOP, Tenn. (June 8 2018) – The retired water manager best known for overseeing water releases during the May 2010 flood of the Cumberland River received the Distinguished Civilian Employee Recognition Award today during the Engineer Day Picnic at Smiley Hollow.
Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District commander, recognized Bob Sneed, former chief of the Nashville District Water Management Section, for exemplifying Army values throughout his 36 years of federal service and for always meeting challenges with unswerving determination and technical ability.
“Bob has had an absolute phenomenal career in support of the Corps of Engineers, not with just what he’s done on the rivers with our structures and processes with hydrology, but the impact he’s had on our people,” Jones said.
Sneed accepted the prestigious award, thanking the commander and Nashville District for giving him a great opportunity to work on fascinating projects and very meaningful work, including environmental issues on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Project early in his career, progressing through historic floods and droughts and pool restrictions.
Throughout his career, Sneed said he always had two guiding principles – looking for the good in people and situations, and to always give his best effort.
“That might be building and managing an operating budget. It might be dealing with environmental issues resulting from pool restrictions or drought,” Sneed said. “Or it could be that on two days back to back out of the previous 51,000 days of record we had the first and the third wettest rainfall days on record. And it was leading the effort to address how we would manage flood waters and how we would work through the reservoir system to address that.”
Sneed emphasized that giving his best “effort” always cultivated satisfaction and a sense of importance from the work, and the Corps of Engineers always provided great value to the region and the nation.
“It begins and ends with a simple ‘thank you,’” Sneed said. “I’m up here but it reflects work done by a lot of folks that I worked for and I worked with over what I would say was an enjoyable and fulfilling 36 years with the Nashville District.”
Sneed joined the Corps in March 1980 in the Water Quality Section of the Hydrology and Hydraulics Branch. He served in a number of roles in the section spanning more than two decades. During the 1990s he helped develop water quality programs in support of environmental compliance and improvement.
In 2004, Sneed assumed leadership of the Water Management Section. Under his guidance, the section executed numerous environmental restoration initiatives ranging from engineering modifications to aging hydropower turbines to alternative release mechanisms to enable the district to meet water quality compliance goals.
Recognized by the Corps of Engineers as a national leader in water quality, Sneed served as a longtime member of the Corps Committee on Water Quality, where his technical expertise and ability to work with others were instrumental in addressing and solving challenges.
Sneed’s greatest challenge of his professional career involved water management during an unprecedented 36-hour rainfall event May 1-2, 2010 when the area received between 13 and 17-plus inches of rain. The Cumberland River crested at 51.86 feet in Nashville, the highest recorded level since construction of the Corps’ flood control projects. The district’s water managers and operations personnel performed heroically under extreme duress in their efforts to manage the raging water flows during the flood and prevent what could have been the catastrophic loss of some of the Corps' flood risk management projects.
From 2010 until his retirement in 2016, Sneed conducted many television and newspaper interviews regarding the Corps of Engineers’ management of the Cumberland River, and in many ways was the face of the Corps in Middle Tennessee.
He also led efforts to hold back water at dams in the Cumberland River Basin to reduce flood risk in support of a record-setting Mississippi River flood event in 2011, and then managed water releases to support navigation in the Mississippi River during a drought in 2012.
When Sneed retired in January 2016, he received the Superior Civilian Service Award and Bronze de Fleury Medal. He holds an associate’s degree in science from Cumberland College, and bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in engineering from Vanderbilt University.
Nashville District civilian retirees with at least 20 years of service are eligible to be nominated for the Distinguished Civilian Employee Recognition Award. The recognition is reserved for exceptional retirees who have served honorably and contributed substantially to the reputation of the Corps of Engineers.
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