On September 6, 2021, Bernie Goode croaked! Not my choice of term to describe his demise, but his own. Interesting term because this is the third time I have written a goodbye to friends/colleagues that were intimately involved in wetlands work. The first being Gary Pierce in 2011 who had a strong affinity to frogs (which “croak”) – his wife Mary described his life as “from tadpole to compost” when he “croaked.” The second, Blake Parker, in 2019, was one of the foremost hydric soils experts in the Nation/world and his Memoriam caused Bernie and I to intensify our interactions, with him telling me that he wanted me to write his obituary when he died. I assured him, that as a former instructor with WTI, we would honor his life with a suitable presentation.

I first met Bernie in the late 1970s. I had finished my biological degrees in 1975 and began employment with the Corps of Engineers at the North Atlantic Division in Manhattan to work on the wetland and waters regulatory program. Not too long after I began, I was tasked to work on National issues such as the 404(b)(1) Guidelines and ocean dumping testing protocols. This took me to Corps Headquarters periodically. Bernie became the Chief of the Regulatory Branch at Corps HQ later in 1975.

Bernie was born and bred in Georgia and as with Blake Parker could be described in the best possible way as a true southern gentleman. He shared his gene pool with his identical twin “womb mate”, Joe, which led to their novel approach to hiking long distances in later years. More on that later.

Both Bernie and Joe became engineers earning degrees from Georgia Tech and then going to work for the Corps at Savannah District. Bernie moved on to Jacksonville District and gravitated towards the Regulatory Program, eventually earning a leadership role at the Jacksonville District and ultimately, Corps HQ. As the Chief of the Regulatory Branch at HQ, Bernie was the leader of a federal program that regulated billions of dollars of public and private activities throughout the Nation. This power position, however, did not go to his head. The work was important, but the people doing it were public servants. When introduced at public speaking events as the national Chief of the Regulatory Program, he usually identified himself as “the head clerk” in large part owing to his innate modesty and the lack of real control that he had on the direction that the regulatory program took.

In 1983, I took a temporary duty assignment (TDY) at Corps HQ, Regulatory Branch for 6 months (officially the Office of the Chief or Engineers or OCE).  At the end of that time, Bernie offered me a permanent position and I accepted with the proviso that I’d work three, ten-hour days a week (I made furniture the other two days). This was at the time when President Reagan initiated the “permanent part-time” concept into the federal work force. For the next six years I worked under Bernie’s supervision until I resigned in the beginning of 1989 to form the Wetland Training Institute with other other ex-federal employees. Bernie took early retirement about six months after I resigned.

One could not ask for a better supervisor than Bernie. He led by example. He was one of the most honest and ethical men I have ever met.

The Corps or Engineers predates the nations independence from Britain by several years – older than the Nation – and from early on had the motto Essayons – Let Us Try. During the period that I worked for the Corps, the Chief of Engineers established the slogan “Customer Care” for the dealing with whatever entity the Corps was doing work for. Bernie took these mantras to heart.

He inherited and selected competent staff, gave them their assignments and then let them do their work – he didn’t micromanage. Seldom in all the years that I knew him did I ever see him get angry and the few times that I did, it was a controlled burn and was quenched rapidly. This despite the fact that some of us took advantage of his goode nature and gullibility by playing practical jokes on him.

I remember one day, Bernie called me into his office and sat me down. In his hand, he held a letter from the Assistant Secretary of Army for Civil Works [ASA(CW)] – a political appointee – that had been sent to the Director of Civil Works, a two-star general. The letter had passed through the chain of command to Bernie, my supervisor, for action. It concerned a recent meeting that I had had with a staff member of the ASA(CW) whom I had known for some years, even before he and I had arrived in Washington. The substance of the letter was that I had not shown “proper respect” to the assistant to the ASA(CW) and that I should be reprimanded. Bernie paused. I waited. Then he told me that we were finished and I could go back to my work.

Bernie had a great sense of humor and always took being the recipient of practical jokes with goode spirit and I think he sensed that his staff targeted him out of love and respect, not out of any measure of maliciousness.

Even at that point in his life, Bernie recognized that his memory was not serving him well. He often would state when he had to pause to recall something, my memory is goode and getting better everyday.

Bernie loved to walk/hike! One day he came into the office and was extolling the virtues of walking barefoot. Of course the next day when he arrived at the office, none of his staff had their shoes on and walked around the office all day in their stocking feet.

Then there was the time that we found a solid oak telephone booth in the hallway, moved it into his office and wired his phone into it so that he could only take/make calls sitting in the booth.

Another time that Bernie showed great restraint was when a rather strong-willed, female regulator was coming from a Corps Division for TDY in Regulatory at HQ. We brought a small desk into his office and placed his name placard on it and cleared his real desk, made a placard for S. H. and set it on his desk with a rose in a vase. Unbeknownst to us, Bernie had a meeting with a visiting general set for that morning. The general walked into Bernie’s office, looked at the name plate on the big desk, walked out into the communal office  and asked “Isn’t Bernie Goode Chief of Regulatory?” Right about then, Bernie arrived, appraised the situation, took the general to another office and said to us sote voce as he was leaving, “I want my office back the way it was by the time I get back.” One of the few times that our antics caused Bernie’s temperature to rise noticeably. Even with this, by the time he returned and saw that all was as it should be, he let it pass.

We always adopted a position similar to the official Navy position regarding the presence or absence of nuclear weapons on Naval vessels: “we can neither confirm nor deny who was culpable.” For years, Bernie would make a great fuss about the dirty tricks we “clowns” played on him, but he never knew who the culprits actually were and he always accepted it with a goode sense of humor. In 2019, I put many of the stories to paper and added them to the WTI “Tales from the Swamp” (check them out!) and Bernie learned that I often was the instigator of the practical jokes.

Toward the end of the 80’s decade, Bernie learned that the Sierra Club sponsored a 100-K, one-day hike on the C&O Canal towpath from Georgetown in DC to Harpers Ferry, WV. Since the Sierra Club seldom had anything nice to say about the Corps, a group of us decided to do the trek and signed up. We met in Georgetown at 0-dark-30 before the butt-crack of dawn and set out at the starting gun.

While we walked together for a while, each having his own pace, we separated during the 61 mile hike. My work-mate, Jack Chowning, and  I walked at the same pace and finished together after about 15 hours. We waited, and waited and waited, until finally Bernie appeared. Somewhere short of Harpers Ferry, when we had to leave the towpath, Bernie had taken the wrong turn and ended up walking several extra miles. After that, we walked several other organized, one-day hikes: the Brandywine trail in Delaware, the Dogwood Half Hundred in Virginia and the Cross-MD Appalachian Trail (AT). After I left the Corps, they continued hikes and I occasionally joined them.

When I was at OCE, the Regulatory Branch sponsored a national conference of senior regulators from Districts and Divisions across the nation every few years at the Xerox Center near Leesburg, VA. While meetings were held during normal business hours, the evenings were free with not too much entertainment. OCE staff tried to amuse the attendees with running/walking competitions and other activities. In 1988, OCE staff decided to have 2 hours of prime time “television” entertainment (replete with the news by Dan Lather (played by Ralph Eppard), a travel segment highlighting Bernie and Joes’s trip to visit their missionary sister in Africa with “David Attleboro” (Attleboro Mall project in MA, played by Frank Torbet). We even had a couple of commercials for “Cecil and Goode Spartina Spritzers.”

For the first night, I drafted a 30-minute screen play called “404 Ping Pong” which did a spoof on the possible row-to-hoe that a farmer (played by Cecil Goad, Chief of Operations Branch at OCE) might face being bounced back and forth between the Corps (Bernie) and EPA (Janet O’Neill) if he tried to get a 404 permit to put 40 acres of forested “wetland” into agricultural production. We got most of the staff in the office parts (no small parts, only small actors!) and we did the filming in the evenings at the office and on weekends at my house (no tax dollars were expended!) We’ve attached some of the videos if you want to watch the live action.

The second evening was a Johnny Carsonesque live session with me doing an Ed McMahon to “Hereeeees Bernie!” Bernie started with Johnny’s golf swing and a monologue, followed by “Tarmac the Magnificent” pulling questions out of mid air based upon answers in sealed envelops; some “jokes” and then followed by skits put on by the representatives of each of the Corps Districts (with Bernie’s commentary on the quality of the production!).

After Bernie retired, he hiked the entire length of the AT from Georgia to New Hampshire. He and his twin-wombmate Joe developed a novel approach to doing the America Discovery Trail from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.

It was common practice for people to hike the AT in sections to eventually complete the entire (2,190-mile) trek, instead of doing the entire hike in one season. Applying that logic, Bernie and Joe broke the 6800-mile, cross-America trek into manageable segments to be handled over several years. They then went one step further in a stroke of pure genus.

They reasoned that since they were identical twins, they had the exact same genetic composition from the splitting of that single, fertilized egg. Thus, when one walked, the genes traversed the distance and both could claim completion. Walking together out of the Atlantic Ocean in Delaware, one kept walking west and the other hopped into a car and drove to a predetermined spot along the route, parked the car, locked it and started walking west. When the lead brother opened the car with his set of keys, hydrated and ate, he then drove to the next, predetermined spot, locked the car and continued walking west. Thus, they hopscotched across the country over a couple of years and eventually walked into the Pacific Ocean together in California.

When he first retired from the Corps in 1989, Bernie did some consulting work. I got him involved with a project I had and he did his first actual wetland delineation under my guidance. A lot of my consulting work involved disputes between the Corps and property owners/developers. In one project, Seven Lakes Subdivision in Virginia, the developer had impounded seven streams to form seven “lakes.” Norfolk District of the Corps, claimed that the developer had discharged fill material in waters of the U.S. without the required Section 404 Permit from the Corps.

My plan, after studying aerial photographs and the local soil survey, was to demonstrate to the Corps that the fill placed to impound each “lake” did not exceed that allowed under Nationwide Permit 26, which at that time did not require any predischarge notification to the Corps. To do that, we had to take soil samples along transects across the lakes, perpendicular to the original axis of the streams to demonstrate the extent of hydric soils.

It was a warm summer day and each of us, shod in knee boots, started across the pond on separate transects. We were using short soil probes and all was going well with no hydric soils until eventually, the pond got deeper. At one point I looked to my right and there was the tall, distinguished “Silverback” (his AT moniker) diving head first into four-feet-deep water trying to push the soil probe into the bottom of the pond to get a sample. Shortly, thereafter, I stepped off the submerged edge of the original stream bank and went in over my head! Ultimately, we prevailed and the Norfolk District regulators conceded that there was no violation.

In addition to consulting, Bernie joined David Dearing and I to develop and present the WTI Policy course. We ended up with a 4-day course in which Bernie and I covered the Policy aspects of the rules, regulations and Corps guidance documents and David lectured on the many court cases that had influenced the development of the Regulatory Program. We did sessions of this course in various cities around the country, including Las Vegas (1992) where I met one of Bernie’s five sons, Charlie, where one evening we gambled with reckless abandon (see the short story What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas).

In 1991, Bernie, David and I did a four-day session at the Pink Palace on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. Great course! Every day for lunch, the hotel would set up a long table under a canopy on the beach and the entire class dined together. At the end of the course, Bernie and I decided that we would fly to Kuai’i and hike into Waiamea Canyon – the Grand Canyon of the Pacific Isles.

At the end of lectures on the last day, we boarded a plane for the short hop to Lihue, Kuai’i. We rented a car and spent the night in a small cabin in a campground run by the Latter Day Saints. The next day we drove up the canyon until we found an interesting trailhead. We started down the trail and hiked for a couple of hours in the hot, dry sun-baked terrain, occasionally getting glimpses of the lush tropical forest at the bottom of the Canyon. The terrain was not unlike the Grand Canyon on the mainland with the multicolored geologic formations. However, about every 20 minutes, a helicopter loaded with tourists would travel through the canyon below the rim detracting from the overall experience.

Eventually, we decided that the overall experience was not that enjoyable and that we would have many hours hiking to the bottom and then back up and it just wasn’t worth it. We turned around and headed back up. Once back to the car we decided to drive up to the highest end of the road. Being wetlanders, our new plan was to hike into Alaka’i Swamp in the rain shadow of Mt. Waialeale, the wettest spot on earth with an average of 451 inches of rain a year. We found this hike to be much more satisfying and as expected, it rained on us while we were there.

In 2001, we returned to the Garden Isle for another policy course, this time at a hotel located between Lihue and Kapa’a. My wife Pat and our youngest, Sean, accompanied me. After the course, the four of us, spent several days hiking into waterfalls, along the Napal’i Coast and snorkeling at Poipu Beach where we were treated to endangered monk seals snoozing on the beach. I sent him some 5X7” photographs from the occasion and he sent me an email back:

Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow – just received the 12 photos of our trip to Kawai (send no comment, you know where I mean).  I don’t even remember photos being taken. In fact, I barely remember even going to Kawai (ditto). Thank you so much, you will be repaid in spades. If you can believe this, I went to Staples today to buy a book to put my photos in.  There is enough room to put all 12 in – but I will need to trim the five 5 by 7s to fit.  But little will be lost since the meat is in the center.  Wow, Wow, Wow. Wow.

It was like Christmas in October!

Eventually, Bernie retired for goode and moved to Tybee Island, where he (or one of his sons) built a house on the lot that Aunt Jojo had left him (there’s a story about that too!), without getting any Corps Permits! I think another house on the Island as well and maybe one on the mainland nearby. During the years that followed, we only had sporadic contact.

In 2019, in addition to Blake’s In Memorium, I committed more stories to written word and sent them to Bernie for his review. Finally, he learned which clowns had perpetrated all the indignities on him while at Corps HQ! As we communicated back and forth, Bernie indicated that he was looking for a companion to do a Cross southern California hike with him and I seemed just like the right person:

What I am looking for is a dotard (the name Kim Jung Un pegged on Trump a year or two ago) guy (females will also be considered though they are rarely dotards)  over 60 but under 80, in good physical condition (Joe always met these requirements to a tee but has gotten to be too old and too feeble to continue (he’s welcome to correct anything I tell you about him).  He’s also invited to come along and help with the car shuttling.  So Bob, if you know of anybody you know that might be interested in joining me on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, please advise. …Great response Bob, but I’m afraid you missed my target for joining me for a 5 or 6-day walk from the Pacific Ocean to Blythe —-  You.

Bernie wanted me to join him on this 220 mile hike from the ocean by San Diego to Blythe, CA on the Arizona border. I decided to research the trip and prepared a “Travel Brochure” of the route. I then responded to Bernie and Joe with the following:

I have completed my research and have attached a travel brochure that I put together which, I think, fairly succinctly summarizes my findings. Which leads me to the question ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND????!!!!? You can regard my question as a statement of my intent NOT to join you on this domestic reenactment of the Bataan death march. I thought when I inquired if there was a named trail, that it was very harsh of Joe to name the trail Bernie’s CA Folly. I figured that there would be some redeeming factors that would motivate you to suggest such an adventure – beautiful scenery, quaint, hispanic-styled towns or cultural resources of extraordinary merit. Instead I found that after the first ~50 miles, there are virtually no trees, no streams that are likely to have water in them, no trees, no interesting rock formations, no trees, hardly any buildings – and certainly none that would be worth looking at, no shade, no trees, no campgrounds and few places to find food or water. Did I mention there are virtually no trees? As best I can tell, the only thing that might result from the trek is to definitively find out what “Walnart” is. I now see that you truly were looking for a dotard to accompany you!

I then countered with the only trek that I have ever had in mind on my “Bucket List” – to circumambulate the island of Kuai’i. We pursed that concept for a while, but nothing came of it.

Since Pat and I were planning a trip to SC, I suggested that we meet at my brother’s house in Chapin for what became known as the Chapin Chat. We met up in Chapin, SC at my brother’s house in early November 2019. We had a nice chat, just the two of us for an hour or so. His son Charlie drove him up from the Savanah area. He had been hospitalized for a brief period trying to get things squared away. He seemed frailer but still hanging in there. Kept talking about keeping his legs moving as a strategy for staying vital.

We talked about his early days in Jacksonville District. Seemed like one of the proudest memories he had from his early days in Jacksonville as an engineer, was when he was able to convince the Corps to build a wetland to protect the poolside of a dam that was eroding from wave action.

We also discussed his plans to hike the Appalachian Trail again and be the oldest person to ever finish it. He planned to start in March 2020 at Harpers Ferry, WV and I agreed to hike with him for a day or two as he headed north. Charlie confided in me that he thought if his dad started the hike, he’d die on the trail. Of course, Covid hit and the hike never materialized. Joe confided after his death that his physical abilities rapidly declined after the Chapin Chat.

Looking back from the vantage point of his absence, I am really glad that Bernie came into my life so early in my adult/professional life. He was a great mentor! My perception is the most that I can know of him. He seemed a genuinely happy individual. There was a Forrest Gump quality to his philosophy of life. His work might be important to the Nation, but he was just Bernie – not some important big shot. He truly cared to do the best he could to provide “Customer Care.” He not only tolerated our practical jokes, but in his “fussing and fuming” about them, I think he found joy that we cared enough to play them on him and appreciated the humor in them. Even though he took the brunt of that humor, he knew how to laugh at himself. I think that he believed that any nonmalicious humor was goode humor. I suspect he would have been right in there with us playing similar jokes on someone else if the shoes fit different feet. I think that he was happy in his own skin and accepted life as it was served to him “like a box of chocolates.”

On September 10, 2019, in a letter-to-the-editor, Bernie wrote: My neurologist recently confirmed that I have Alzheimer’s, but I was not the least bit saddened to hear this. I will enter into a new life which will be even better than this one. We will all pass over the line eventually, and I plan to do so having fun. For those fearing Alzheimer’s – forget it, have hope and have fun.

As life robbed him of his vitality, he reveled in planning for his next great adventure, whether it was crossing the southern California desert, circumambulating the Kaui’i coastline or being the oldest to hike the Appalachian Trail. At seventy three, Bernie is still teaching me how to live life.

Bob Pierce 2021

Click here to read obituary in Savannah Morning News

The First Time I Met Bernie Goode

by Charlie Newling  (9/13/21)

Bernie Goode was a sort of legend among Corps of Engineers regulatory staffers and others, like me, who’d heard about but never met him.  He was renowned as the “Chief” of the Corps of Engineers Regulatory Branch in the Office of the Chief of Engineers in Washington, DC.  I had started my career working 3 years as an Environmental Resources Specialist for the Regulatory Branch at the Corps’ New England Division.  Then, I accepted a research biologist position with the Environmental Laboratory of the Corps’ Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Much of my work there involved wetland research in support of Corps regulatory work in their Districts all around the U.S.  It was in that position, that I was called to assist the New York District with a wetland delineation at a small airport in northeastern New Jersey.  As I recall, the airport wanted to build additional runways, but the question was how much of where they wanted to build would technically qualify as wetland and possibly require permits from the Corps.  For reasons beyond the technical (and above my pay grade), the proposed project had become controversial.  The New York District was under pressure to get it right.  (That’s why they had called for back up and why I was sent there.)

On the appointed day, I was wandering though the scrub-shrub habitat in question making factual observations with the New York District technical staffers.  Suddenly, unannounced, an entourage of people higher up the chain of command arrived including the legendary Chief of Regulatory from Washington, DC, one Bernie Goode.  At that point, someone politely introduced us.  His first words to me were, “So you’re Charlie Newling.”  I responded with the first thing that came to mind, “So you’re, Bernie Goode.”  Thus began my direct acquaintance and subsequent friendship with Bernie.

As the years rolled on, I came to recognize and respect Bernie as an objective, intelligent, and humble leader who was able to maintain a sense of humor while capably discharging an incredibly difficult and demanding job.  As a professional, I benefitted from his example.  I consider his friendship a privilege for which I am grateful.

What Happens In Vegas, Stays in Vegas, or
You Can Bet On It, the House Always Wins

By Bob Pierce

This is a sordid tale about a young man, with cash burning a hole in my pocket and four days (and three nights) in Las Vegas – for the first time. It is 1992, and the Wetland Training Institute is offering its Federal Wetland/Waters Policy Course, in Las Vegas, Nevada. David Dearing was there for the first two days to provide a legal perspective to the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and Clean Water Act responsibilities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Regulatory Program. Also with me, the Capo de Capi, the head of La Familia (he has five sons!), the self-styled Head Clerk, Bernie Goode, retired Chief of the Regulatory Branch at Corps HQ and his son Charlie. David left after the first two days or his level thinking might have saved us from ourselves.

After the second grueling day of Policy class, I roamed the casino at which we were staying looking for a goode time. For a while I watched the gaming tables and realized that I didn’t know squat about the games and would look the fool if I placed a bet. Then there were row after row of one-arm bandits. It looked like a convention of the living dead – drop a coin in the slot, pull down the lever, watch the wheels spins, then do it again. In one out of 100 pulls, a bunch of coins pour into a bin making a lot of noise, signaling a winner and refreshing the zombies’ thirst for a big payout. Not for me!

I had heard that the casinos made their money by paying out all but ten percent of what was bet back to the gamblers. That kept the zombies interested enough to believe that they would hit the big jackpot and instantly become rich. Knowledge is power. I knew the odds, but I had a Ph.D. and certainly could out smart a bunch of Mafioso, I’m sorry, casino owners. I could game the system. And then I saw it!

Standing by itself; lonely from lack of players; this wonder of chrome and plexiglas; this mechanical work of art; a slot machine that let you watch its moving parts. Three tiers of mechanical pistons continuously pushing horizontal bars forward across narrow decks loaded with quarters – and you didn’t have to pull any levers (probably why no one was using it; because you didn’t get the healthy exercise to your right arm that normal slot machines provide)! All you had to do was drop a quarter into one of six slots and the machine flipped the coin onto the top tier and if it landed right, one of the pistons would push coins off the deck and they would cascade onto the next deck and if they landed right a piston would push them off and they would land on a third deck and if they landed just right, a piston would push them off and they would roll down a chute into a bin and they were yours. Now here was a mechanism that had to follow the simple rules of physics and mechanics and couldn’t possibly be programmed. A plan rapidly formed in my mind.

The trick, I was certain, was to overload the mechanics such that many quarters would cascade down into that chute and then into our pockets. The return on investment would be phenomenal! Six slots – two hands from Bernie, two from his son and my two all loading quarters as fast as we could. How could the machine withstand the overload? I decided then and there to commit my entire cash holdings – $10 – to a role of quarters – and enlist Bernie and his son into the making of our fortunes!

The next morning before the Policy class began, I briefed my plan of attack to Bernie. He immediately saw the wisdom of it and his eyes gleamed with the thought of the financial success that was sure to be ours. He’d bankroll his son, who he was certain would be up for the challenge if not financially solvent enough on his own! We could hardly contain ourselves as the day whizzed on full of fascinating presentations on OHWMs, hydric soils, MOAs, MOUs, FACU plants, cease and desist orders and general permits.

Finally, the time arrived! Dinner – normally, our first priority – would just have to wait. Into the casino we rushed. There, sitting on its pedestal was our beautiful, chrome-plated, piston pumper. Each of us armed with 40 quarters laid out or stakes on the small table affixed to the machine for ready access. We discussed the plan of attack, poised ourselves and counted down, “three, two, one, Fire!”

With hands flying faster than the eye could follow, we slammed quarters into all six slots at once. The pistons where pumping, the quarters were flying; more quarters were cascading and the bin was ringing endlessly for the 20 seconds that it took for us to flood the machine with $30 worth of quarters.

The din subsided and we saw that the cash bin was full of quarters. Success!

Breathlessly, we counted our hard-earned silver and found that we had $27.00 – 10 percent less than we had fed into the machine. Just chance we thought. We divided up the quarters and ran again. When we counted we had $24.25. Over and over we played until our last quarters were gone and we shuffled off to an inexpensive dinner in the casino.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Aunt JoJo’s Lot

By Bernie Goode with Preface by Bob Pierce


From 1983 to January, 1989, I was a regulator working for Bernie who was then Chief of the Regulatory Branch at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters in Washington D.C. Bernie retired later in 1989 and moved back to Georgia where he was born and bred. He taught Wetland/Waters Policy Courses with WTI for a number of years after his retirement. I remember him telling me about this piece of property he had inherited on Tybee Island, GA, and his plan to make the building of a house one of the foci of his retirement.

He and I communicated by email infrequently over the years after he stopped teaching with WTI in the 2000s. Recently, upon the occasion of Blake Parker’s death, we started a discourse about stories, politics, philosophies and life that resulted in us deciding to get together somewhere between Tybee Island and Poolesville, MD where I live.

My brother and his wife live in Chapin, SC which, though closer to Georgia than Maryland, is in between. I decided that I could combine a visit with Bernie and maybe his twin brother Joe, with a visit to my brother’s and a rendezvous for the “Chapin Chat” was formulated. Kill two birds so to speak.

The following week, friends of ours from days at the University of Dayton, emailed and invited us to spend some time with them at a condo on Hilton Head Island that they were renting in November. I needed to change the date of the Chapin Chat with Bernie to coordinate with the time in Hilton Head. Once he learned that we would be going to HH, which is close to Tybee, he invited us to visit them and then followed with:

You will sure get a kick out of seeing my property and hearing how I spent 10 years getting all the federal, state, and local permits to place my house here (modular house from factory in NC) in 2011.

My Aunt JoJo was given one of the three lots I now own on Tybee Island in 1934.  She died in 1990 and I took ownership of the lot (80% wetlands) in that year and began my quest to apply for a permit(s) to build on it, wait for the denial, file a takings lawsuit, and end the payments of property taxes that I faced until I die and then would pass the burden to one or more of my sons, who could continue to pay taxes till they die, and pass it to their kids (my grandkids), etc, etc.  While the annual taxes were tiny, it was the principle of being taxed forever with no use of the property, except to feel like you own a piece of Tybee Island, which bothered me.  “No,” I said in 1990, “the buck stops with me.”

I never got very far with my quest, when I found the owner abutting my lot to the north was willing to sell her’s to me for $6 K, which sure beat paying taxes for the rest of her life and it did have enough high ground to place a house.  Later, the lady who owned the next lot to the north, whose husband had died (or so she said) trying to get permits to squeeze a house onto high ground, agreed to sell me her lot for $40 K.  I needed this lot to give me access from the road abutting her lot to the north.  From there I began the process of fighting with the three levels of Government.  As you know it is important that we not lose another 0.00000000000043% of Georgia’s wetlands.

I’ll have you know, no wetlands were filled to be able to drop my house here.  The problem was – I was close to the marsh on all 4 sides.  When I started the quest circa 2005, the GA DNR had begun to aggressively enforce their 25-foot buffer rules which they thought they had jurisdiction over under state law (I would later prove them wrong after they denied my request for a variance).  When the Tybee wetland-radical regulators heard that I had beat up on their friends at DNR, they arranged via a no-notice-to-the-public change to their wetland ordinance to include a 25-foot buffer.  After they denied my request for a variance, I challenged their authority under the guise that I was grandfathered, as was clearly stated in their new rules; the City Attorney agreed. I thought I was finally on my way to living on, not in mind you, the marsh, with a beautiful view of the marsh and historic Horse Pen Creek.

But the City zealots were not yet done with torturing me.  So, they pulled up an old ordinance in their rules saying no fill could be placed in a wetland or other waterway, period.  Thus, while the house placement was legal, the driveway would be crossing a small tidal ditch along 7th street (dug by the City a hundred years ago), and that the box culvert I had proposed would result in a few square feet of fill in wetlands on both sides, I would have to build a bridge over this two-foot deep (at low tide) and 10-foot wide roadside ditch.  I told them at a meeting of the Mayor and Counsel that I had considered a bridge rather than the box culvert but could not do so since the timbers needed to support a bridge strong enough to allow passage or heavy concrete and crane trucks, would block water flow under the bridge at all tides.  I thought I was finally home, but one Councilman, with a crucial vote I needed, said I would have to build a concrete arch bridge over the ditch.  Being near the end of my rope, I engaged my number 4 son living on the NC Outer Banks, who can build anything, including boats and airplanes, to come down with his friend and build me a reinforced concrete arch bridge (only 10 thousand dollars) over this ditch.  He did – and said bridge would later support a 50-ton crane needed to cross over and lift the two house pieces up onto the concrete columns.  The bridge did not budge as can be seen by a video I posted on YouTube.

The way I got back at the City zealots was to order a statue of a Bridge Troll from a factory in California.  We named this troll Einstein and mounted him in concrete on the SE corner of the bridge where he proudly stands to this day.  To all who asked and even to those who do not ask, I tell the lie that he had been trained in California prior to shipping, to eat any overly- aggressive regulator that tries to cross over the bridge.  No such person has tried in the nine years he has stood at his guarding station.  We also named our house “Tid-Bit” which stands for “The impossible dream, barely in time.”

Since you have had a little experience with wetlands, I feel sure you will enjoy the short trip down.  BTW, I had little to no problem with the US Army Corps of Engineers.  I did have a minor skirmish with them when they labeled a depression on the backside of the house’s proposed dimensions – which was subject to a few inches of flooding during a higher high tide – as a “non-wetland water of the United States.”  Since I had had some experience in getting Corps’ regulators to apply a little common sense when determining jurisdictional limits, the Corps was not a problem!


Regulatory “Tales” from the Southwestern Division

Yes, I (Vicki Dixon) am the “author”.  Janet O’Neil and I were the passengers in the back seat.  I think Jack Chowning or Sam were in the front with Bernie.

Getting the Bugs Out.  In the mid 1980’s it became clear that a standard national wetland delineation was needed to support decisions made in the Section 404 permitting program administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers.   There were different methods of delineation being used by various districts around the country.  The Corps’ Waterways Experiment Station (WES), now ERDC gathered information and drafted a proposed manual.  A national workgroup of Corps Regulatory Program representatives, mostly biologists and botanists met in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia to refine that draft manual and what would become the 1987 Wetland Delineation Manual.  The group met for a week and worked long hours.  So, by the end of the week, the group was tired and needed a diversion.  The group found that diversion in an adult Rhinoceros Beetle and a male Dobson Fly.  The insects were placed a few inches from each other on a table to see what would happen.  Both insects had large pinchers and stood their ground.  The potential battle was billed as the insect version of “Godzilla versus Megalon”.  There was not a clear winner in the “battle” and both insects survived.  The group then hatched an idea to amuse the Mr. Bernie Goode, the national director of the Corps’ Regulatory Program, who was visiting the next day.  The draft delineation manual, about 3 inches thick, was placed in a three ring binder.  A square hole was cut out of the center of the paper of the manual to form a space large enough for the Rhinoceros Beetle, which was placed in the hole.  When Mr. Goode arrived, the group solemnly presented him with the delineation manual.  In their presentation, they stated that after many long hours a draft manual had been prepared.  However, they noted that there were still a few bugs that needed to be worked out.  Mr. Goode opened the manual, found the beetle and everyone had a good laugh. 

When the meeting concluded later that day, Mr. Goode drove several of us to the airport to catch our flights home.  Usually the picture of a calm, Southern gentleman, on the way to the airport, in the middle of Washington, DC rush hour traffic, Mr. Goode became agitated.  He began slapping at his pants leg while saying a few words not normally mentioned in polite company.  Without explanation and with great urgency, he swerved to the shoulder of the highway, jumped out of the car, and began jumping up and down.  All of us in the car were dumbfounded.  After a few minutes, Mr. Goode returned to the car, with a very relieved expression on his face.  We discovered that the Rhinoceros beetle, complete with large pinchers, had escaped from the binder, which had been placed under the driver’s seat of the car.  It then had managed to crawl upward, quite a distance, inside Mr. Goode’s pants leg. 

Let’s Cut Out the BS

by Bernie Goode

I was sitting at my desk circa 1983, minding my own business and working hard as you clowns [an affectionate reference to his staff!] were slacking trying to come up with a new prank to play on me when my secretary (name forgotten) came in to tell me an official with the Department of State had called me to get information on permit requirements for discharges of bovine excrement into lakes and rivers and would be calling me back.  Thinking this was a joke, I thought I would have a little fun when he called back.  A couple of hours later my secretary announced he was on my line.  I picked up the phone and said “are you the guy that called me earlier about the need for a permit for bullshit discharges?”  I waited for a laugh, but got a painful silence for several seconds instead. I thought I had really stepped into it now (pun not intended). He then said in a deep, no-nonsense, authoritative, irritated voice that he had called about “regulatory requirements for the discharge of bovine excrement coming off a ship carrying cattle across the Great Lakes and down the St. Lawrence River en route to Mexico.”  I then put on my best professional voice and explained why he did not need a Corps permit.

Secrets of the Booth

by Bob Pierce

Cast of Characters (and I do mean characters!!!) at the time of the original events that occurred in the Office of the Chief of Engineers (OCE):

  • Bernard (Bernie) N. Goode, former Chief of Regulatory Branch, Operations, Civil Works, Department of the Army Civil Works (DAEN-CWO-R) and self-proclaimed “Head Clerk;”
  • Jack Chowning (a.k.a. Jack Chowder), Staff Member DAEN-CWO-R and born and bred in Oklahoma;
  • Ralph Eppard, Staff Member DAEN-CWO-R; and
  • Robert (Bob) Pierce, Staff Member DAEN-CWO-R
  • Lance Wood, Attorney for Regulatory Matters, Office of Chief Counsel, DAEN-CCE

On 18 April 2018, Bernie emailed Jack and I:

I was watching the news the other night and saw a piece about EPA Director Scott Pruitt’s lavish spending habits.  I’m sure you both are aware of this Oakie’s (no surprise) behavior with our money.  The issue that caught my attention was the purchase of a secure phone booth for his office – a bargain at $43,000.  As you know the EPA has many top secret actions going on – like a 404(c) determination – and needs this security.

All that said, what really caught my attention was the memory of the major prank you boys played on me circa 1982 [Bernie has a good memory and it is getting better every day but it was probably a few years later since I did not transfer from New York to DAEN-CWO-R in Washington, DC, until the end of October 1982 and would not have had the chutzpah to participate in such events so recently in my transfer] – at least I believe you two were the major culprits – who thought it would be a splendid idea to grab a massive, wooden phone booth someone had left in the hallway and install same behind my desk and cause said phone to ring upon my innocent arrival to work.  Not sure, but Ralph Eppard may have also been a principle player in this highly disrespectful act.

Now, you can rest at ease and never more fear my revenge now that I realized you were just trying to help me be able to make and receive secure calls and did not want to tell me so at the time due to my deep involvement with secure matters.  So I apologize for harboring any ill feelings towards you and for telling so many people about the prank which no doubt caused you to miss many job opportunities, including mine.

With heart felt apologies and thanks, Bernie Goode, Former Head Clerk, DAEN-CWO-N

I responded later on 18 April 2018:

I can neither confirm nor deny any involvement in such a dastardly prank. You are undoubtedly correct, however, that whoever may have been involved, certainly had your best interests and the security of the Nation in mind when providing the means for all of the regulatory secrets to be discussed without breaking National security.

For example, the proposal by NAN District Engineer to read the Navy Classified EIS for homeporting on Staten Island and to make a classified ROD IF the Iowa Home Group carried nuclear weapons, but an unclassified one if it didn’t.  Lance Wood always took so much pleasure when we had meetings on that of announcing that the discussion was going to become classified and that anyone without Secret clearance had to leave – which I dutifully did.

Also comes to mind the Artificial Reefs Regulation that was classified as Confidential when State took over promulgation from Commerce and then elevated it to Secret Classification when they next sent it to CWO-N for review (the day before it was published in the newspaper.) That incident caused me to be reported to OCE Office of Security by Colonel Brian Brannigan for leaving the Confidential draft regulation in my hold box. Eventually, I was forced to submit paperwork to get a Secret Clearance or lose my job. Can you imagine they ultimately gave me, a lowly ecologist (who had made and sold to other teenagers, explosives during high school) that didn’t want to know any National secrets, a Secret Clearance rating – ~60 days before I resigned!

Bernie responded later yet on 18 April 2018:

Speaking of Artificial Reef Regulations, I don’t recall if I told you my story:  I gave a speech to some gathering of artificial reef people circa 1982.  A few months later, I received requests from Russia, Cuba, and some other communist country to provide a copy of my talk.  The Pentagon quashed any thought I had of responding.  I suppose these countries were looking to get on the public notice list for applications to place or refurbish a reef so that they would know where the US might be hiding some submarines from their radars.  Which adds new emphasis of how thoughtful you and Jack were to me.

Now a year and a half later, September, 14, 2019, in another email exchange, Bernie wrote:

I don’t know why you failed to mention the best/worst prank you and your partners-in-crime played on me – the 200lb, 1920 phone booth you hauled in early one morning and placed behind my desk and then set it to ring as I walked in to work.  I frantically opened the phone door and grabbed the phone feeling like Superman.  That was a goodun.  So was the barefoot story which you could tell better than I [“Barefoot in the Park” will have to wait for another telling].

Bernie, since you have already absolved us of any ill-will or culpability, I’ve decided to come clean about the phone booth!

I had just arrived at the office, on the sixth floor, and was walking down the hallway from the stair well. Recreation Branch was the door before Regulatory and there in the hallway was this massive, old oak phone booth. I stuck my head in the Recreation door and asked what was up with the phone booth. I was told that they had used it for secure calls (probably discussing how many people had waterskied at Corps reservoirs the preceding weekend) but were getting rid of it.

Bernie, I’m sure that you were prized by your superiors, especially those at the Pentagon, for your ability to surround yourself with the brightest, quick-witted staff that could adapt, improvise and overcome with little if any delay! In that vein, a plan formed in my head almost instantaneously.

Knowing I couldn’t move it myself – not only was it heavy – but unwieldy as well – I went into the Regulatory Office and recruited some help. Jack was involved, maybe Ralph, but I honestly have no recollection of actually moving the damn thing! I suspect that there must have been four of us, though.

Once inside the outer door, we moved it through the door in the glass wall that formed your office and behind your desk. I disconnected your desk phone and, having had a class entitled “Electronics for Scientists” in grad school, it was a rather trivial matter to connect your phone line into the booth. I think that you tolerated our efforts to protect and secure your conversations and our Nation’s wetland from enemies both foreign and domestic at least for that whole day.

As for Superman, you know that your loving staff always looked upon you as our hero!

To view additional photos, click here.