News: USACE Galveston District Spotlight on Mario Beddingfield
Story by Sandra Arnold
GALVESTON, Texas – When Mario Beddingfield’s sixth grade science teacher asked him if he had ever thought about becoming an engineer, he replied that he wasn’t interested in learning how to drive a train. Luckily for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District, curiosity got the better of him and he quickly became captivated with engineering after researching the subject.
“I have always been fascinated with the whole construction process, but over time I have found a good niche in water resources,” said Beddingfield, a hydraulic engineer in the Hydrology and Hydraulics/Water Control Branch.
As the program coordinator for the district’s Flood Plain Management Services Program, he oversees water control forecasts and operations for the Wallisville Lake Project and Addicks and Barker reservoirs and dams.
The Addicks and Barker flood risk management structures are located in southeast Texas in the San Jacinto River basin approximately 17 miles west of downtown Houston. While both reservoirs are normally dry when a rain event occurs, the gates are closed on the dams to reduce flooding below the reservoirs and protect the Houston metropolitan area from flooding.
“These structures have saved taxpayers an estimated $6.74 billion (2013) in potential flood prevention,” said Beddingfield. “I enjoy my career because I feel that the work I do prevents families and communities from experiencing the tragedies associated with flooding.”
Assisting with implementing interim risk reduction measures at the dams to reinforce spillways and repair joints in the water-discharge tunnels, he explains that previous work to fill voids beneath the water control outlet structures, construct a granular filter to capture fine embankment and foundation material and install lighting and emergency generators at the outlet structures have all helped to reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding of the downstream areas until a permanent solution can be executed next year.
“I enjoy the problem solving aspect of my work,” Beddingfield said. “A customer comes to you with a flooding problem and ask you to fix it. It is really rewarding when you can design something that prevents destruction of personal and public property and possibly save lives.”
Beddingfield knows firsthand the significance structures such as the reservoirs and dams have in communities, serving as a hydrologic and hydraulic technical expert for the Unit Operations Center Crisis Action Team at USACE Headquarters in Washington, District of Columbia, during the 2010 Nashville and the 2011 Missouri River floods.
“Nashville experienced a record flood that caused billions of dollars in damage and casualties,” Beddingfield said. “As bad as things seemed to be, I realized that without the projects and work that we do at the Corps, it would have been a lot worse. It really helps put into perspective the importance of what we do on a daily basis and I was able to see how the Corps handles disasters from a national level.”
A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Beddingfield earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering (2005), a Master of Science in Environmental Engineering from Tennessee State University (2008) and is a licensed professional engineer. In 2014, he was awarded the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) Conference Modern Day Technology Award. Previous to moving to Galveston, he was an adjunct professor for the Civil Engineering Department at Tennessee State University, teaching fluid mechanics, environmental engineering and structural testing labs.
In his free time he volunteers to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields within local high schools and colleges and is a huge fan of the Tennessee Titans and Tennessee State Tigers.
To learn more about Addicks and Barker visit http://www.swg.usace.army.mil/Missions/DamSafetyProgram.aspx. Learn about the district’s STEM Program at http://www.swg.usace.army.mil/Missions/CorpsintheClassroom/STEMProgram.aspx or for more news and information, visit www.swg.usace.army.mil. Find us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/GalvestonDistrict or follow us on Twitter, www.twitter.com/USACEgalveston.