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:
Historic flooding of the Upper Missouri River Basin in 2011 prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District to explore additional solutions in improving flood prediction. This led to the implementation of Project Snowpack, a multi-state and federal agency program that will revolutionize floodplain management throughout the region.
The project utilizes a network of mesonet stations, designed to observe mesoscale meteorological phenomena and microclimates to better understand local weather patterns. The stations are fitted with equipment that reports the soil moisture, ground temperature, snow depth, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, relative humidity, precipitation, and air temperature every five minutes along with cameras to capture variations in surrounding snow depth caused by snow drift.
The Omaha District’s Civil Works Design and Planning Branch was at the forefront of the effort in creating partnerships – public, private, and Tribal, who will work together to expand the network across five states. This includes providing the resources, connections and coordination for the project.
“We are essentially planning, designing and implementing [the project] all at once, which makes it both exciting and challenging at the same time,” said Carlie Hively, USACE project manager for Project Snowpack.
Project partners include meteorologists and technicians from the University of Montana, University of Wyoming, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, North Dakota State University and South Dakota State University.
Nathan Edwards, the mesonet operations manager at SDSU’s Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, explained that one of the hardest elements to monitor is water content in packed snow.
“Snow on the ground is just precipitation that has yet to actually fall,” Edwards said. “Without knowing the depth of snow across the upper Missouri basin, snowmelt predictions can have a wide margin of error. In the past we have always worked to track precipitation, and now with these new monitors, being able to extend that into the winter is a big step forward.”
Project Snowpack is in the process of building one mesonet station every 500 square miles across the Upper Missouri River Basin, covering rural areas that previously had no local forecasting available. The stations provide readings (data-sets) every five minutes, improving emergency response times for severe weather emergencies such as flash flooding and tornadoes.
“Weather is something that impacts every single South Dakotan. It has been so rewarding to give South Dakotans the weather monitoring they deserve,” Edwards added.
The project will also provide valuable insight to improve agriculture through wind, temperature and humidity monitoring. Tracking these conditions assists agriculturists in planning for range movement, best times to plant and fertilize crops, and identification of drought conditions.
“Partnership between USACE, SDSU and the other universities involved in the project ensures the successful ongoing implementation of Project Snowpack,” said John Remus, Chief of the USACE Missouri River Basin Water Management Division. “The states played a really big role in the technical part of planning this and they’re playing a huge role in implementing it.”
According to Remus, the utilization of existing centers of expertise like the universities is “a great example of having the right people do what they do best.”
Mesonet stations that were installed prior to USACE’s involvement have now been updated with ultra-modern monitoring technology; and the continued implementation is now federally funded as part of the project.
To date, approximately 170 mesonet stations have been installed and the data provided is available for federal, state and local agencies to use.
In its completed state, the data pulled from the network will allow USACE to better plan dam retention and water releases to help mitigate flooding, Remus explained. Even more importantly is how the data will bolster the planning for flood fighting efforts. Knowing where flood fighting will likely be needed allows USACE and its partners to better position resources to be available where they are needed most, he added.
The project is expected to be completed in 2027 and will include 540 mesonet weather stations across the entire Upper Missouri River Basin covering 270,000 contiguous square-miles, making it the largest network of its kind worldwide.
“Although the targeted users [of this project] are the Army Corps of Engineers and its Northwestern Division water reservoir management group, as well as other federal agencies, the benefits get really broad really fast,” Hively said. “It will provide benefits to the agricultural industry, forest and stream management, and researchers will have a ton of fun with all the data that this is providing, not to mention the benefits to climate resiliency itself.”
From the benefits it will provide to future flood and drought mitigation efforts, to improving the lives of agriculturists and rural communities at large, Project Snowpack is going to make a world of difference along the entire upper Missouri River Basin.