The Washington and Oregon chapters of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) honored GeoEngineers with four awards at recent Engineering Excellence Awards banquets held in Seattle and Portland. ACEC’s annual Engineering Excellence Awards, the industry’s most prestigious awards program, salutes engineering achievements demonstrating the highest degree of merit and ingenuity.
The Walla Walla River Habitat Restoration project won two awards, the Washington Best-in-State Gold Award for Social, Economic and Sustainable Design Considerations, and an ACEC-Oregon Honor Award.
The Port of Portland Terminal 6 Modernization project received a Washington Bronze Award and an ACEC-Oregon Honor award.
Sustainable restoration increases fish habitat while decreasing flooding
Levees and other artificial constraints on the Walla Walla River’s natural boundaries help reduce flood risk near the town of Milton-Freewater, Oregon. However, the levees also limit fish-rearing habitat for endangered fish species such as bull trout, steelhead and spring Chinook. Removing levees was one way to create new habitat, but area residents expressed concern that such an approach could expose the area to increased flood risk.
GeoEngineers worked with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and a local landowner to address these issues, developing concepts for removing a portion of levee just upstream from Milton-Freewater and reconnecting the river with its traditional floodplain. The project’s ambitious goal was to dramatically increase fish habitat while simultaneously increasing the river’s natural ability to absorb flooding during peak flows.
The Walla Walla River restoration project met many objectives, including:
- Bringing historically competing interests together and identifying technical solutions that could address seemingly conflicting community needs
- Removing 2,500 linear feet of levees and produced ten acres of reconnected/restored floodplain
- Receiving a FEMA “no-rise” certification, demonstrating that removing the levee and reconnecting the floodplain reduced flood risk
- Yielding immediate and dramatic increases in endangered fish populations
Creative predictive modeling combo guides future Port of Portland improvements
GeoEngineers developed a multi-phased improvement plan based on innovative seismic and economic modeling to help the Port of Portland update its container wharf to meet current seismic standards.
This successful combination of leading-edge seismic modeling, creative project phasing, cost efficiency and fiscal transparency helped the Port:
- Preserve its federal grant funding and complete the project using existing funds
- Prioritize projects by measuring actual return on investment of the various improvement plans developed, accounting for the economic impact to the Portland region
- Justify project expenditures to the Port Commission and stakeholders more easily
- Make targeted improvements to two of its three berths at the facility that will reduce the seismic risk to the Port and the region
- Develop a future seismic upgrade plan to eventually enable the whole facility to meet City of Portland seismic codes