In the heart of Dallas, Texas, stands a testament to flood risk management, public safety, partnership, and engineering excellence- the Dallas Floodway project. The Flood Risk Management project recently reached a milestone with the substantial completion of the West Levee 277k crest raise and side slope flattening features of work.
As with any complex, multi-year civil works construction project, partnership plays a pivotal role in project success. For the Dallas Floodway, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has partnered with the City of Dallas as the non-federal sponsor as well as other Federal, State, and Local agencies.
A levee is defined as a man-made structure, usually an earthen embankment, designed and constructed in accordance with sound engineering practices to contain, control, or divert the flow of water to reduce risk from temporary flooding. While levees can help reduce the risk of flooding, it is important to remember that they do not eliminate the risk. As with any manmade structure, routine and reoccurring maintenance is important. The City of Dallas maintains the responsibility of ensuring the levees retain their effectiveness through compliance with operations and maintenance activities.
The funding for these initiatives was allocated through the Supplemental Appropriation in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
"Flood protection is at the heart of this project, aiming to keep the surrounding communities and businesses from flooding. We aim to fulfill the Corps mission of keeping people safe," said Aaron Philips, USACE Construction Project Coordinator at the Dallas Floodways Resident Office.
Spanning along the Trinity River, the project encompasses a substantial area, reaching from the abandoned Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe trestle to the confluence of the West and Elm Forks, and further upstream along the West Fork for about 2.2 miles, as well as approximately four miles along the Elm Fork.
The construction phase, while in its beginning stages, consists of over seven different features: the AT&SF Bridge Modification (completed in February 2021), 277K Levee Raise and Side Slope Flattening, construction of the Trinity Portland Pump Station, construction of the Charlie Pump Station, replacement of the Delta Pump Station, construction and upgrade to the Hampton Pump Station and improvements to the Nobles Branch Sump.
"Currently, the 277k levee raise, the construction of the Charlie pump station, and the Trinity Portland pump station just scratch the surface of the seven features planned," said Mark Hermann, USACE Program Manager.
Named the "277K levee raise and side slope flattening”, the $56 million project's moniker stems from the levee's elevation intended to sustain 277,000 cubic feet per second of water flow through the floodway. This amount of flow would be the equivalent of three Olympic sized swimming pools releasing their water in an instant.
The project involves raising the current East and West levees over a 23-mile stretch to the 277k cubic feet per second water surface elevation as well as flattening the riverside slopes. The 277k levee raise involves using earthen material to raise the low areas of the current levees to the height consistent with the 277k flow within the floodway. The side slope flattening consists of flattening the slopes of the levee to make them less steep. This will increase the overall stability of the levees and decrease operations and maintenance costs once completed.
On August 2, 2023, after years of planning and a year and a half of construction, the project reached a milestone by completing all improvements to the West levee along the Trinity River in Dallas.
A joint inspection of the 277k Levee Raise and Side Slope Flattening for the west levee was conducted by the USACE and the construction company, transferring over the responsibility of operation and maintenance to the City of Dallas.
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers number one priority is public safety, and so with the 277k levee raise and pump station improvements across the Dallas Floodway program, we are delivering that for the City of Dallas," said Stanley Young, USACE Resident Engineer.
The overall Dallas Floodway project, with its commitment, collaboration, and forward-thinking approach, edges closer to its goal of delivering a strong and capable levee system for the City of Dallas. Its dedication stands as a testament to mitigating flood risks to the community from potential natural disasters while assuring their well-being remains paramount.
About the Dallas Floodway: Find out what the Corps of Engineers is doing in the Dallas Floodway by visiting our dedicated website here:
Over the past two years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has had nearly 50 agreements and over 100 construction activities underway, thanks to over $17 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These projects are making a difference for communities across the nation, from protecting against floods to boosting commerce to preserving and enhancing aquatic habitats.
Nov. 15 marks the second anniversary of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, legislation that delivered $17.1 billion in supplemental funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers across the enterprise. Of that total investment, approximately $1.7 billion was appropriated to the North Atlantic Division to support investigations (studies), construction, the Continuing Authorities Program, and operations and maintenance.
"The transformative investments of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will continue to meet the President’s priorities of strengthening supply chains to bring down costs for working families, protecting American economic competitiveness, combatting climate change, and promoting equity by prioritizing underserved communities," said Michael L. Connor, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.
At the division, regional management for BIL projects is handled through its Civil Works directorate and specifically by the lead BIL project manager, Ronald Pinzon, who came to the division a year ago after working at the USACE New York District.
“The highlight of working on BIL, especially coming from the district where I worked for about 20 years, is taking all of the experience from other jobs I’ve had and applying it here directly with headquarters regionally, as well as nationally,” said Pinzon. “It’s a whole lot of learning, but it’s also solving issues and barriers that the districts are coming across, and I get to help them with their execution by addressing those challenges.”
Presently, approximately $240 million of NAD’s BIL allocation has been executed. Some project highlights across the region over the past couple of years since BIL was passed include:
The Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration project is in the vicinity of the James and Barren Islands in western Dorchester County, Maryland. It focuses on restoring and expanding island habitat to provide hundreds of acres of wetland and terrestrial habitat for fish, shellfish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals through the beneficial use of dredged material. The project implements a long-term strategy for providing viable placement alternatives to meet the dredging needs of the Port of Baltimore while maximizing the use of dredged materials as a beneficial resource. The project consists of constructing environmental restoration projects at both James and Barren Islands to restore 2,144 acres of remote island habitat (2,072 acres at James Island and 72 acres at Barren Island). BIL appropriated $84 million in construction funds, and the project partnership agreement for the construction phase of the overall $4 billion project was executed Aug. 23, 2022.
At Buffumville Lake in Charlton, Massachusetts, BIL provided more than $530,000 for Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking lot and access improvements. From October 2022 to May 2023 work included removing a shelter, repaving the emergency access road to the beach, increasing ADA parking spaces from three to 10, and building a new paved walkway leading to an ADA-compliant ramp with handrails to the restrooms. The Buffumville team identified the need for this work in 2017 and BIL allowed it to come to fruition. The prior lack of handicapped access was a frequent comment by visitors before the improvements, and according to the site’s park rangers, the team has received many positive comments since the area reopened.
The New York District is leveraging an infusion of $126 million in BIL funding to undertake crucial maintenance and enhancement projects across several vital waterways, including Barnegat Inlet in New Jersey, New York Harbor and the extensive network of channels serving the bustling Port of Newark and Elizabeth in New Jersey. This strategic allocation of funds is poised to fortify the infrastructure that underpins an estimated $15.7 billion in economic activity, both regionally and nationally. The investment will address sediment accumulation, navigational safety, and ecological sustainability, ensuring the shipping and recreational channels remain accessible and reliable. These improvements are expected not only to sustain but to potentially boost economic vitality by optimizing the efficiency of commercial vessel transit and safeguarding the region's reputation as a premier maritime hub.
BIL appropriated $141.7 million in construction funds for the Norfolk Harbor and Channels, 55-ft. Channel Deepening project in Virginia. On Oct. 16, Norfolk District opened bids on USACE’s third construction contract supporting the project. The milestone is significant, because with this path to contract award, the 55-ft. channel project could be ready for use by deeply laden containerships and coal ships as early as the spring of 2025. The contract package also has options for the beneficial use of beach sand at two locations in the city of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Earlier contracts using BIL funds were awarded in August 2022 for the Channel to Newport News and Norfolk Harbor Inners Channels and in April 2023 for Phase 1 of the Atlantic Ocean Channel. Other portions of the project in Thimble Shoal Channel are nearly completed by the Virginia Port Authority to fulfill their share of the overall project cost of approximately $472 million.
The Inland Waterway from Rehoboth Bay to Delaware Bay project (also known as Lewes & Rehoboth Canal in Sussex County, Delaware) received BIL funding enabling the dredging of the federal channel of the canal for the first time in many years. USACE’s contractor began work in October 2023. The dredged material from the canal will be placed in a facility in Lewes, Delaware, and the contractor will be removing approximately 40,000 cubic yards of sediment at a cost of $1.6 million. The waterway is used by commercial and recreational fishing charter boats, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Delaware Bay and River Cooperative (DBRC). BIL appropriated $3.78 million for Operations and Maintenance funding.
“Throughout the North Atlantic Division, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law brings solid investment to a variety of projects that benefit the people of the region in terms of safety, quality of life and disaster mitigation, to name just a few important aspects,” said Col. John P. Lloyd, NAD commander and division engineer. “This supplemental funding has enhanced USACE’s ability to deliver the program and meet the needs of our state and local partners on projects that will make a difference at the community level.”
USACE’s overall fiscal year spend plans and policy guidance for implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are listed on the headquarters website at: https://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Supplemental-Work/BIL/.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District works in partnership with The Great Lakes and Ohio River Division’s Regional Rivers Repair Fleet, also known as R3F, on major maintenance and repair efforts for the district’s locks and dams on the Ohio and Green River and for the district’s 17 Flood Risk Management Dams across Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.
“Louisville District’s partnership with the Regional Rivers Repair Fleet is vital to the reliability, resiliency and efficiency of the district’s navigation and flood risk management infrastructure,” said Shawn Kenney Louisville District Operations Division Technical Support Branch chief. “Our goal is to ensure reliability of our system through proactive maintenance and repairs before deficiencies have operational impacts. With aging and deteriorating infrastructure and resource constraints, there is a trend toward a fix-as-fails maintenance strategy.”
The Louisville District and R3F have been working together for years to improve maintenance processes.
“R3F is the preferred resource provider for performing much of this major maintenance work on our infrastructure because the in-house capabilities provide seasoned expertise with the unique work and flexibility if differing site conditions are found once construction is in-progress,” Kenney said. “The adaptability of R3F provides an enhanced level of risk management that would not be possible if all major maintenance work was contracted out.”
Having the ability to mobilize in-house fleets improves the resiliency to restore infrastructure to service quickly in the event of an emergency, Kenney added.
R3F was formed in 2016 when individual river district repair fleets previously located in Louisville, Huntington, Pittsburgh and Nashville were consolidated. This standardized core work and fleet management, safety risk management, equipment maintenance, training and staffing.
More recently, the Heavy Capacity Fleet of the R3F completed miter gate replacements at McAlpine Locks and Dam in Louisville, Kentucky, and Cannelton Locks and Dam in Cannelton, Indiana, to increase reliability and efficiency on the inland waterways system. The Louisville District and R3F’s initiative consolidated this work from two seasons to one, minimizing the time the lock chamber had to be shut down greatly reducing impacts to industry.
“Completing this dual miter gate change out and floating mooring bitt replacements, in one low water season rather than two, reduced industry impacts by over four months in 2022, and allowed for project cost savings of over $10 million,” said Waylon Humphrey Louisville District Operations Division chief. “Most importantly, now that Louisville and R3F have demonstrated this is possible at McAlpine, and repeatable at Cannelton, we have laid the groundwork for the miter gate replacement program timeline to be cut in half.”
The Louisville District and R3F have been paving the way driving toward greater efficiencies with the fleets, according to Kenney.
“The team is pushing the envelope on efficiency and proving successful through diligent planning, aggressive scheduling practices, and proactive risk management,” Kenney said. “The prime examples of this include projects at McAlpine Lock and Dam in 2020 and Cannelton Locks and Dam in 2022, which set a new standard for completing miter gate replacements on both ends of a lock chamber in a single year.”
These projects successfully reduced the timeframe from two five-month closures over two years to a single five-month closure and reduced the budget from $47 million to $37 million.
“These efficiencies allow USACE to move on to the next critical needs on the long list of backlogged maintenance,” Kenney said. “Also, the reduced closure times benefits navigation industry and its customers to the tune of millions of dollars.
The R3F team is currently working with the Louisville District at John T. Myers Locks and Dam in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, to rehab the miter gates in the 1,200-foot lock chamber.
“At John T. Myers Locks and Dam, the Heavy Capacity Fleet is attempting to reduce the scope of work from 18 weeks, which was the duration the last time a similar project was performed, to 10 weeks,” Kenney said. “This Louisville District and R3F team realizes that pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone is prudent and rewarding; we are embracing the notion that we were not made for comfort, but for greatness.”
Sixteen years to the day after Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana, Hurricane Ida made landfall just 40 miles down the coast. In addition to their date and location, these storms shared similar characteristics, which has lead to multiple comparisons. Thankfully, lessons learned from Katrina and efforts to mitigate future devastation have been successful.
Following the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) embarked on one of the largest and most comprehensive public works projects in American history. The USACE established the Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) to provide the greater New Orleans Area a 100-year level of risk reduction, meaning that infrastructure would be established to defend against a storm surge that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year.
One of the most critical measures of HSDRRS is protecting levees against the erosion-causing hydraulic forces of wave overtopping. Without protection, overtopping can lead to significant erosion on the landside of the levee and lead to a potential breach of the levee itself. The primary reason that Katrina was so catastrophic was that the 28 to 30 foot storm surge overtopped the levee system, causing massive erosion and scour that lead to multiple levee breaches. The failure of the levee system created extensive flooding that impacted about 80% of New Orleans.
To improve erosion control on the top and side slopes of the levees, the USACE used High-Performance Turf Reinforcement Mat (HPTRM) to armor the levees against overtopping. The HPTRM protection included four feet on the flood side, across the top and completely down the protected size, ten feet past the grade brake.
The USACE requested HPTRMs that meet the standards outlined by the EPA and Storm Water Technology Fact sheet. PROPEX Armormax was selected as one of the systems to be used. Armormax combines HPTRM with Engineered Earth Anchors to lock soil in place and protect against hydraulic stresses.
To ensure its effectiveness, the USACE required rigorous testing before the project began. USACE partnered with Colorado State University (CSU) to build a full-scale wave overtopping simulator (largest in the world). The simulator tested erosion resistance of Armormax for 500-year resiliency overtopping conditions.
Testing showed that Armormax provided increased levee resilience and durability. Additionally, testing showed that using the Armormax system reinforces vegetation on the earthen levees, which reduces the risk of breaching caused by wave overtopping.
On August 29, 2021, the upgraded levee system was put to the real test when Hurricane Ida rolled ashore. The next day the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East shared that “there were no levee breaches or overtopping within the HSDRRS.”
While Hurricane Ida has been Louisiana’s biggest test since Katrina, Armormax has stood its ground against two other destructive hurricanes. Penn Levee, which is armored with Armormax, withstood overtopping from both Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Isaac.
Solmax has had an ongoing relationship with the USACE for 14 years, and Armormax has been used to stabilize more than 100 miles of levees throughout the New Orleans area. The success of stabilizing the levees in New Orleans had led the USACE to use Armormax on river levees and canals both for erosion control and slope stability throughout the United States.
Ninety-nine percent of counties in the United States have experienced at least one significant flooding event in the last 25 years, and there have been 33 flood events costing a billion dollars in the U.S. since 1980 according to the American Flood Coalition. Similarly, the EPA estimates that the average 100-year floodplain will increase 45 percent by the year 2100.
Due to this anticipated surge, engineers and agencies are taking a more proactive approach to mitigate flood hazards rather than addressing damage after it has occurred. For example, FEMA launched the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program that shifts funds from reactive disaster spending toward investment in community resilience. With this proactive approach, sustainability and resiliency are becoming more important in flood mitigation project design.
According to the FEMA fact sheet, Natural Hazard Mitigation Save Interim Report, for every $1 spent on federal mitigation grants, an average of $6 is saved. Additionally, the losses avoided by federally funded riverine flood mitigation projects exceed the money spent, with an estimated 7x return on investment.
The cost of Hurricane Ida is estimated at around $75 billion and ranks as the number 5 most expensive hurricane is U.S. history1. Without the mitigation efforts of the USACE, it’s safe to say these costs would have been much higher. Hurricane Katrina tops the list, costing $128 billion.
Artificial intelligence (AI) took the world by storm in 2023 when various rapidly-improving text-language models became publicly available. Since then, the human race has delved into the wacky, wild world of AI and faced some pressing questions: how do I trust the content I find online? Is my self-driving car plotting world domination? Will my toaster have a midlife crisis?
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District also is facing some of these questions since today’s world is watching bits and bytes come face-to-face with backhoes, bulldozers, and barges. Since other sectors like healthcare, finance, education, automobiles, disability services, astronomy, etcetera etcetera are already using AI, the question becomes where AI’s future is in river navigation, flood damage reduction, emergency management, and other Corps of Engineers missions.
For the uninitiated, AI is a broad term that applies to a range of topics, but the part of AI most-commonly referenced is machine learning. ML feeds a software system massive amounts of training data to learn patterns and model those patterns in its decision-making.
AI generally has two categories: strong and weak. Strong AI is a machine capable of solving problems it has never been trained on, like a person can. Strong AI is what we see in movies – think self-aware androids. This technology does not exist yet.
Weak AI operates within a limited context for limited purposes, such as self-driving cars, conversation bots, and text-to-image simulators. Weak AI is what we see in OpenAI tools like ChatGPT and Dall-E, and the results can be pretty good (as seen in this social media photo):
…but that’s about all it can do.
Granted, AI is a natural progression of technology. What began with search engines is continuing through digital synthesis, and organizations like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District are assessing how it can assuage the opportunities of AI to serve the public better while managing AI’s detractors.
The Corps of Engineers, being a civil works agency, has had some involvement in technological innovations throughout its nearly 250-year history. While the corps was not responsible for the top-line scientific discoveries, it did build the K-25 plant for the Manhattan Project (which, in 1942, was the largest building ever constructed). It later provided construction and design assistance in the 1960s for NASA at the John F. Kennedy Space Center.
However, this is not to say the corps is always at the forefront of modern technology. Much like the district’s 23 locks and dams on the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers – some of which have been around for more than a century – tried-and-true methods that have withstood the test of time do not always necessitate immediately upgrading to the next model.
For instance, Allegheny River Lock 5 in Freeport, Pennsylvania, began operating in 1927 and installed an improved hydraulic system in 2023 to upgrade its resilience. Operators manage the hydraulic system with a touch screen.
The old system, shown here at Allegheny River Lock 6, involved a singular hydraulic system manually operated by levers positioned along the lock wall.
Fun fact: Lock 5 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
“There’s a whole panel of valve indicators, and it’s just like turning a dial,” said Anthony Self, a lock operator on the Allegheny River who has been with the district since 2015. “It’s controlling eight valves at a time to fill the chamber. We have much more precise control.”
The next step is implementing remote lock operations. As part of the Lower Mon construction project on the Monongahela River, Charleroi Locks and Dam is assembling a control tower to consolidate the facility’s locking capabilities to a single touchpoint.
The district is not averse to other types of emergent technology, either. The district’s geospatial office has been using drone technology since the time drones became publicly available, to map aerial footage of regional waterways, conduct inspections, monitor construction, digital surface modeling and more.
“We can even document the spread of harmful algal blooms at reservoirs or fly in emergency response situations during floods,” said Huan Tran, a member of the flight team in the geospatial office.
“We often talk about being a world-class organization, so your technology must be on point. You can’t be behind somebody else’s capabilities,” Kristen Scott, the chief of the geospatial section for the district.
Nevertheless, as AI opens its digital maw as the technological “next step,” the district has not jumped on the AI train…yet.
This is probably for the best – emergent technology is, well, emergent, and the corps doing its job right can sometimes be the difference between life and death.
Take flood-damage reduction, for instance. Pittsburgh District’s 16 flood risk-management reservoirs have prevented more than $14 billion in flood damages in its 26,000-square-mile footprint since their construction nearly a century ago. Regardless of how intelligent AI becomes, the corps will never solely rely on it to make a decision impacting people’s safety.
“It’s a powerful tool, and it’s a good thing, but we’re not empowering automation to take over decision-making or executing plans,” said Al Coglio, the district’s chief of emergency management.
Coglio’s job is critical. He coordinates with FEMA to send teams and emergency generators to areas devastated by natural disasters and left without power.
“We've gotten to the point now where we're saturated with data, and there's no real good way to use it,” said Coglio. “Back when I was growing up, if you wanted to learn something, you had to physically go to a library unless you were in a rich family and had encyclopedias. Now there’s so much information readily available at our fingertips.”
For Coglio, AI has the potential to be a powerful tool for not just the district, if implemented responsibly and can assist in the predicting, planning and prestaging phases of a natural disaster.
“If you look at all the different types of disasters like flooding, tornadoes, historical weather, and historical emergencies resulting from weather, I think automated intelligence can give us a better focus area,” said Coglio. “Even for mapping floods in Pittsburgh, we have general ideas, but what does that do for the average citizen? They’re concerned with if their house floods and automated intelligence can give them the specifics they need to know.”
Despite the opportunities AI presents, some are skeptical about its place in the current cultural conversation.
“I don’t think most people saw the next ‘big thing’ before it was the next ‘big thing,’” said Lt. Col. Daniel Tabacchi, the district’s deputy commander. “Are we lionizing it? Are we overstating the impact or effect AI will have? It’s hard to tell.”
“Then again, I haven’t used it for anything other to make my work easier,” added Tabacchi.
And for others in the district, AI’s advent does not change a thing about their day-to-day work. While any use of AI will always have human oversight, some areas that require boots-on-the-groundwork, such as lock operations, are not applicable.
“Do I think artificial intelligence will ever replace lock operations? No, absolutely not,” said John Dilla, the district’s chief of the Locks and Dams Branch. “It could enhance the data we use for operations and maintenance, but there are minute-to-minute understandings and decisions between lock operators and boat crews that a computer can’t do. People are irreplaceable.”
In the future, the district has opportunities to use artificial intelligence as a tool to serve better the 5.5 million people in its region while capitalizing on advancing technology.
But does AI itself concur?
Well, we asked one. It said this:
“AI, as a cutting-edge tool, has the potential to substantially augment the capabilities of the Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District. Its data-driven decision-making, predictive modeling, and resource optimization can optimize infrastructure management, leading to improved public service and resilience in the face of challenges.”
AI seems to agree, but maybe it just wants us to think it agrees.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District awarded a contract for the installation of a temporary pump system at Isabella Dam in Lake Isabella, California, on Sept. 28, 2023, to increase the capacity of the existing pump system and redirect seepage back into the lake.
By Oct. 2, the new system had been installed and was operational. The temporary system has currently eliminated downstream flows caused by seepage.
Henri Mulder, a geotechnical engineer with the USACE South Pacific Division who works out of the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project Resident Office, stressed that the seepage is not a risk to the safety or structural integrity of the dam.
“All dams experience seepage,” said Mulder. “However, the elevated seepage levels we’re seeing this year are the result of record precipitation and the higher lake levels that resulted.”
The Sacramento District will continue assessing the Isabella Dam seepage to determine if more permanent changes need to be made to increase the pumping system’s capacity.
“This pump is a temporary solution,” said Mulder. “After further evaluation, we plan to install a more permanent solution within six to twelve months.”
The Sacramento District engaged in extensive pre-construction modeling of both inflows and outflows at Isabella Lake before the recent modifications to the dam, which included an improved filter and drain system. And although the current collected seepage levels exceed pre-construction estimates, the system is working as designed.
“During design, models represent our best estimates of site conditions, so there are always adjustments to be made after construction,” said Mulder. “That’s why we execute fill plans after finishing a big project like this.”
Completed in 1953, Isabella Dam is located approximately 40 miles northeast of Bakersfield. The reservoir is impounded by two earthen dams on the Kern River and Hot Springs Valley. Today, Isabella Lake and its dams reduce flood risk for Bakersfield and the surrounding region and is a primary water source for water users throughout Kern County. The Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project addresses overtopping, seismic and seepage issues identified with Isabella Lake’s main and auxiliary dams and spillways to reduce the likelihood of dam failure. Construction of the dam modifications began in 2017 with the relocation of facilities within the project footprint, and the project achieved substantial completion in 2022.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, recently awarded a contract for constructing the fifth levee reach on the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain (WSLP) Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction project. This contract will construct approximately 1.0 miles of the 17.5-mile-long levee system that will provide 100-year level risk reduction to the area primarily in St. John the Baptist, St. James and St. Charles Parish.
The contract for WSLP-106 was awarded on September 12, 2023, to Dynamic Group, LLC, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This section of the levee is approximately 1.0 miles long. The contract at award is $49,804,593.87. Work will be performed in St. John the Baptist Parish. The levee elevation will be 11 feet. The contract is scheduled to be completed in Summer 2027.
“In the past 12 months the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded $261,721,276.00 for the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane and Storm Reduction Project,” said Col. Cullen Jones, New Orleans District Commander. “This project continues USACE’s commitment along with its partners at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and Pontchartrain Levee District to providing storm surge risk reduction for more than 60,000 people in the St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. James parishes in southeast Louisiana.”
The West Shore Lake Pontchartrain project will achieve 100-year storm surge risk reduction by a variety of structural and non-structural features to include: levees, floodwalls, and pumps. While these features will reduce risk from storm surge associated with tropical events, they do not specifically reduce risk of flooding from significant rainfall. The project design team continues to work with the Non-Federal sponsor to acquire Rights of Entry (ROE) and coordinate with utilities and pipelines within the project footprint. Contracts completed include test sections, clay stockpiles, sand stockpiles, sand placement, and access road construction.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District awards a nearly $30 million contract to remove the Monongahela River Locks and Dam 3 in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania.
The district awarded the dam removal contract to the Joseph B. Fay Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The work is part of the Lower Monongahela River project, which includes the construction of the larger lock chamber at Locks and Dam 4 at river mile 41.5 near Charleroi and the replacement of the fixed-crest dam with a gated dam at Locks and Dam 2 in Braddock, Pennsylvania.
The work involves a controlled removal of the locks and dam to equalize the upstream and downstream river levels. Corps of Engineers contractors will remove the locks and dam concrete debris and repurpose it to stabilize the facility's land wall and dam abutment, which will remain in place.
“Removing this facility creates 30 miles of unimpeded navigable waterways for everyone navigating the river between Charleroi and Braddock,” said Steve Fritz, the district’s megaproject program manager. “This is a major milestone for the Lower Monongahela River project. Once the dam is completely removed, the project will generate nearly $200 million of average annual benefits for the region and the Nation.”
Physical work to deconstruct the dam is expected to begin in mid-2024. River vessels will continue to use the locks until the dam is completely removed. Following the dam removal, contractors will remove the facility’s locks.
“The Monongahela River is vital to the economic strength of communities across southwestern Pennsylvania,” said U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). “This lock removal project will allow commerce to flow with greater ease and efficiency, creating jobs and boosting the economy of the Mon Valley and the region in the years to come.”
In June, the district awarded a separate contract to build 73 fish reefs on the Monongahela River to mitigate fish habitat loss caused by removing Locks and Dam 3. The Corps of Engineers expects the reefs to be completed before removing the dam.
Locks and Dams 2, 3, and 4 on the Monongahela River in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties are the three oldest currently-operating navigation facilities on the Monongahela River. These locks experience the highest volume of commercial traffic on the entire Monongahela River navigation system, and the pools created by these facilities provide industrial and municipal water and are popular with recreational boaters.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District announces a base contract award to Brasfield & Gorrie, L.L.C., of $16.8M for the Dissolved Oxygen facility. This is a sustainability project funded by the Section 212 Program to install an upstream diffuser system at Wolf Creek Dam on the Cumberland River in Jamestown, Kentucky.
The district is partnering with power preference customers, the Southeastern Power Administration, and Tennessee Valley Authority to construct a cryogenic facility downstream of the dam and install 50,000 linear feet of oxygen diffuser lines that reach into Lake Cumberland.
When constructed, the cryogenic facility will be capable of converting 300 tons of liquid oxygen per day to gaseous oxygen through four 15,000-gallon tanks and eight vaporizers. Daily deliveries of liquid oxygen will be required during the low dissolved-oxygen season for operation. Onsite construction of the facility is anticipated to begin in 2024 after fabrication of the liquid oxygen tanks has started.
Installation of polyethylene piping has begun. TVA has mobilized to the site to begin assembling the diffuser lines. Construction is underway downstream of the dam and then the lines will be trenched under Highway 127 and through Halcomb’s Landing in late fall after the peak recreation season. Lines will then be installed in the forebay. The system is similar to those TVA operates at Norris Dam and Watts Bar Dam and is scheduled to be operational in the fall of 2025. Highway 127 and Halcomb’s Landing will remain open or partially open throughout the construction period.
“The award of this contract will improve generation at Wolf Creek Power Plant by mitigating the need to sluice water during the late summer/ fall low dissolved oxygen season,” said Chris Stoltz, project manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District. “Without this system, power production can be limited to 30% of its design capability throughout the season. The Project Delivery Team is excited to begin this phase of the project and continue supporting the region with reliable and renewable electricity.”
Installation of an upstream diffuser system, in conjunction with auto-venting turbine runners, reduce or eliminate unit restrictions during the low dissolved oxygen season. When these capabilities are achieved, the Nashville District can provide more environmentally friendly releases while maximizing hydropower generation.