Nashville District wins USACE Innovation of the Year Award

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District
Story by Mark Rankin

Date: 10.24.2013
Posted: 10.26.2013 15:32
News ID: 115781
Nashville District wins USACE Innovation of the Year Award

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The field of engineering, geology and construction is sometimes characterized by natural disasters, uncontrollable conditions or a high level of risk and uncertainty. This is where you insert the term “pioneering engineers.”

Engineers and geologists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Civil Design and Construction Branch received the 2013 USACE Innovation of the Year Award at the district headquarters Oct. 24 from Lt. Col John Hudson, Nashville District commander, for their notable efforts on the Wolf Creek Information Management System.

The award-winning Wolf Creek team is comprised of Mike Zoccola, Emily Carr, Vanessa Bateman, Joshua Bomar, Mike Brown, Terry Penny, Brook Brosi, Alex King, Baron Worsham, and Sarah Wiles. They were commended for their support of the Wolf Creek remediation project.

The Wolf Creek Dam Rehabilitation project, of a scope never before done in the world, became necessary after Wolf Creek Dam was classified in high risk of failure in 2005. The $594 million rehabilitation project included insertion of a wall of concrete, 4,000 feet long, 275 feet deep and a minimum 2 feet thick on the upstream side of the earthen section of the dam.

The team collaborated with the barrier wall’s primary contractor, a joint venture of Treviicos and Soletanche Bachy, and subcontractor Geosyntec in developing, implementing and maintaining the Wolf Creek Information Management System.

The WCIMS is an innovative geographic information system based application to manage and visualize all construction and performance data that are maintained in a relational database. The WCIMS allows all stakeholders immediate web access to all project information.

As part of its support for the project’s quality assurance program, the USACE team with Geosyntec envisioned, developed, implemented and then used the WCIMS to collect and analyzing construction quality control data throughout construction.

Don Getty, manager of the Wolf Creek Dam Rehabilitation Project, said the Wolf Creek team did an outstanding job in using WCIMS to present the quality construction.

“This presentation was critical in receiving acceptance of the completed barrier wall, an acceptance that may otherwise have taken months to receive, over a two-day period,” said Getty.

According to Vanessa Bateman, chief geology section from the Civil Design Branch WCIMS allowed the team to efficiently collate and manage 71 million files, all historical and recent geotechnical information, barrier design and construction documents, geotechnical instrumentation data, and project management information.

Bateman said using a platform comprising a GIS model, spreadsheets, portable database documents and relational database, the Corps applied its expertise in geotechnical engineering design and construction to provide project stakeholders with a wide range of visualized project information through a secure access portal.

“One of the things about this project is that it allowed the Corps get a good look at what our requirement needs for information management,” said Bateman.

“It served the purpose and enhanced our capabilities which allowed us to collect valuable information for new specifications as it was received from various construction equipment,” said Bateman.

The Wolf Creek Dam is located on the Cumberland River in the western part of Russell County, Ky. The dam provides hydroelectric power generation, flood management, water storage for year-round navigation, and water recreation. In addition, the dam serves as part of U.S. Highway 127.

Seepage issues were first identified during the original construction and a major seepage control project was initiated in the 1970s. Because of ongoing seepage problems in the foundation and the associated concerns for dam stability, the Wolf Creek Dam became a USACE top priority. In January 2007, USACE placed the dam in Dam Safety Action Class I, a designation applied when there is a “high risk’” for failure.

Drillers installed nearly 1,200 concrete piles to construct the 2-foot thick wall and filled many underground fissures to make the completed project much stronger.

The gist of the project was a 980,000 square foot concrete barrier wall built using a number of techniques. Those included high and low mobility grouting, clamshell excavation, hydromill excavation, directional drilled pilot holes, auger drilling, reverse circulation drilling and verification coring drilling.

Mike Zoccola, the lead engineer at the Army Corps of Engineers that oversaw the project, said that the implementation of this system allowed the Nashville District team to give a complete technical evaluation of the construction at a meeting to USACE experts for the purpose of presenting quality of control data to a team of experts six days after the completion of the last pile in the barrier wall.

Zoccola said the logistical challenges on this project were intricate, but together the USACE team, very experienced contractors, made a great team.

He said in normal circumstances without WCIMS, this type of data would have taken two people six months to compile and present.

“WCIMS is an outstanding database system, and I think what is innovative about it is we had the foresight to know we were going to need a tool like this and marry it with technology and digital data,” said Zoccola.

“All of USACE can benefit from this product,” said Zoccola.

The WCIMS system has been used within Nashville District to inform technical decisions that have been made at the Center Hill Dam and further is directly applicable to other projects USACE wide.

The Nashville District has meetings set up to sharing their information with the Huntington, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville Districts to demonstrate the system and discuss implementation on other projects.

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