Kevin Brennan, Baltimore District’s long-time Navigation chief, is retiring in June 2022 following an illustrious 37-year career with the Army Corps of Engineers. A native of Baltimore, Brennan began working for the District as a GS-5 realty clerk in 1985.
“I’m a Baltimore boy,” said Brennan. “I grew up in Baltimore City, and I went to school at Towson State University. There was a job fair at Towson, and the Army Corps was recruiting for the Real Estate Division, and I figured this would be a start,” he said with a smile. “Until I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up.”
From left: Bill Seib, Steve Brown, and Kevin Brennan pose in their life jackets for the 7th annual Ready, Set, Wear It! Life Jacket World Record Day on May 21, 2016.
That career starter quickly turned into a 14-year role within the Real Estate Division, working on various flood risk management and ecosystem restoration Civil Works projects that are now synonymous with the Baltimore District and mid-Atlantic region. This includes the land acquisition of various critical flood risk management projects throughout Pennsylvania and West Virginia, such as Wyoming Valley, Wilkes Barre and Lock Haven.
During his time in Real Estate, Brennan worked closely with professionals in various divisions throughout the District, exposing him to other opportunities.
“One of the nice things about working on Real Estate projects is that I interfaced with Planning, Engineering, Construction, and Project Management divisions, and I got to see how it all came together. In the early 2000s when an opportunity presented itself in Project Management, I went for it.”
He would advise the same to anyone starting their career. “Put your best foot forward. Keep your eyes open and look for growth opportunities. It is easy to get complacent and settle into something and coast along. Put yourself outside of your comfort zone to challenge yourself and grow accordingly.”
From 2007-2013, Brennan served as the project manager for the Poplar Island Ecosystem Restoration Project, overseeing the placement of approximately 10 million cubic yards of dredged material, and the creation of more than 120 acres of wetland habitat.
Kevin Brennan shows Baltimore District employees a Poplar Island cell in the early stages of development, Feb. 2012. Brennan served as project manager for the ecosystem restoration project during his tenure with the Baltimore District.
In 2013, Brennan was selected as Navigation Branch chief within the Operations Division. His responsibilities included the oversight of approximately 90 federal navigation projects along 290 miles within the Chesapeake Bay. His mission responsibilities forged a tight-knit partnership with Maryland Port Administration, who oversees the Port of Baltimore and contributes an estimated total economic value of $5.6 billion to Baltimore and its surrounding regions.
Kevin’s leadership and subject-matter expertise were critical to numerous initiatives of importance to the Maryland Port Administration, including contract administration leading to the successful completion of the Poplar Island Lateral Expansion; approval of the Masonville Tipping Fee agreement between the state and USACE; completion of the Environmental Assessment to support placement of dredged material at the Wolf Trap Alternate Placement Site Northern Extension; and significant contributions to the ongoing Seagirt Loop Deepening Feasibility Study. He also guided his team in executing contracts to maintain critical shallow draft channels; this includes the Wicomico River, which serves the Port of Salisbury – Maryland’s second largest port.
In Col. John Litz, former Baltimore District commander, speaks to Sen. Chris Van Hollen, at left, and Kevin Brennan, Baltimore District Navigation Section chief, heading toward Smith Island, Maryland, March 30, 2019.
In addition to overseeing numerous dredging projects within the Chesapeake Bay, Brennan was also responsible for maintaining a fleet of hydrographic survey and debris removal vessels within the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. areas.
“During his tenure as the Navigation Branch chief, Kevin guided the team in the removal of 22 million cubic yards of maintenance material dredged from the Baltimore Harbor & Channels system and ensured deep draft channels were surveyed on schedule to provide pilots and waterway users with the best data possible regarding channel conditions,” said Graham Mcallister, who will serve as Navigation Branch’s interim chief upon Kevin’s departure. “His efforts also included the acquisition and attainment of full operational capacity for two survey vessels (CATLETT and BUCK) and floating crane NACOTCHTANK to ensure the District was able to carry out both its survey and debris missions into future decades. Kevin’s ability to clearly articulate the needs of the Navigation mission areas while effectively managing expectations from the public has made him a leader within the Corps of Engineers.”
When asked what he hopes to see for his beloved Navigation branch moving forward after he retires: “I’d really like to see the beneficial use of dredged material on smaller navigation projects. I think to replicate, in some degree, what we did at Poplar Island with beneficial use material that would otherwise be wasted – it’s a win/win situation. There’s plenty of needs in the state for shoreline sustainability or marsh restoration where dredged material could be the answer.”
As Brennan reflects on his nearly four-decade-long career, he often marvels at how well his personal and professional interests have blended.
“I’ve always pursued positions and work that interests me. The Chesapeake Bay is a treasure to me, personally. To end up as the Chief of Navigation when I have a lot of boating interests on the Bay, it’s like a dream come true. Who would have thought in 1985 that I’d be sitting in the chair that I’m in right now? Just amazing.”