Category Archives: Emergency Operations

Army Corps of Engineers awards $71.9 million contract to rehabilitate Addicks, Barker Dams

Construction to begin in September 2015

GALVESTON, Texas (Aug. 31, 2015) – The U.S.

Addicks and Barker Dams
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District, awarded a contract in the amount of $71,902,340 to Granite Construction Company for construction of new outlet structures at the Addicks and Barker Dams in west Houston. Work will consist of construction of new intake towers, steel-lined conduits, parabolic chute slabs, stilling basins, cutoff walls and downstream filters, in addition to the grouting and decommissioning of the existing outlet structures in place at both dams. There will also be an additional seepage cutoff element for Barker Dam at Noble Road located south of Briar Forest Drive.

Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District, awarded a contract in the amount of $71,902,340 to Granite Construction Company for construction of new outlet structures at the Addicks and Barker Dams in west Houston.

Work will consist of construction of new intake towers, steel-lined conduits, parabolic chute slabs, stilling basins, cutoff walls and downstream filters, in addition to the grouting and decommissioning of the existing outlet structures in place at both dams. There will also be an additional seepage cutoff element for Barker Dam at Noble Road located south of Briar Forest Drive.

“The Corps’ primary objective is to maintain public safety by ensuring the dams we own and operate are safe and the risks to the public are minimized,” said Col. Richard P. Pannell, USACE Galveston District commander. “With interim risk reduction measures already implemented and long-term measures to be undertaken with this contract, it is expected that the dams and reservoirs will continue to serve the City of Houston for another 50 years.”

The 70-year-old structures were designated as extremely high risk in 2009 based on technical issues concerning the safety of the dams and the potential consequences to the City of Houston should the outlet structures fail.

“Partly because of this risk classification, the dams received the attention and funding to complete several interim risk reduction measures while USACE has been working on a long term fix,” said Enrique Villagomez, mechanical engineer and Addicks and Barker project manager with the USACE Galveston District. “The interim risk reduction measures implemented included filling the voids along the conduits and beneath the parabolic chutes caused by the seepage from the reservoirs, constructing a granular filter around the ends of the outlet structure  conduits to prevent voids from forming in the future, installing additional lighting to aid in increased inspection and monitoring, the addition of emergency generators to ensure uninterrupted power to the outlet  structures and the installation of steel plates to stabilize the concrete parabolic  chute slabs.”

According to Villagomez, while construction should have little impact on the operations of the reservoirs, there will be unavoidable impacts to the hike and bike trails located in the vicinity of the existing outlet structures and the adjacent construction area for the new outlet structures, as well as the parking lot and hike and bike trail in the Briar Forest area of Barker Dam.

“We will be working with the contractor and Harris County to minimize these impacts,” said Villagomez.

Residents will be able to track construction schedules, detours and upcoming events related to the Addicks and Barker Dams’ safety modification project thanks to story map technology located online at http://geospatial.swf.usace.army.mil/AddicksBarker2/index.html.

“It’s the first time we’ve used this type of interactive web application to inform residents and recreational users about our construction plans,” said Villagomez. “The story map combines the location of the dams and recreational facilities with multimedia content to make it easy for viewers to find information while allowing us to post updates to keep viewers apprised of our construction progress.”

Work is expected to begin in September 2015 with an estimated completion date of summer 2019.

According to Villagomez, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continually inspects all of its dams nationwide under its Dam Safety Program – a program that shows our commitment to protecting lives, property and the environment by ensuring that all dams are designed, constructed, operated and maintained as safely and effectively as possible. The Corps’ Dam Safety Program provides a framework to ensure that both short and long term solutions are studied and applied, and helps to ensure public safety for our local communities.

The Addicks and Barker dams and reservoirs have protected the Houston metropolitan area for more than 70 years. Since their construction, the dams have prevented more than $8 billion in potential flood damages. It is estimated that more than $2 billion in potential flood damages were prevented during the May 2015 flood event alone.

When a rain event occurs that may result in flooding downstream of the dams, the outlet structure gates are closed in order to reduce the potential for flooding below the reservoirs along Buffalo Bayou. When the downstream flows along Buffalo Bayou have receded to non-damaging levels, reservoir operations resume, the gates are opened, and water is released from the reservoirs at a non-damaging rate until the reservoirs are empty.

Learn more about the Addicks and Barker facilities at www.addicksandbarker.info. 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 or Flickr athttps://www.flickr.com/photos/98857835@N08/sets/72157644293522432/.


Flood or drought: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is there

Brig. Gen. David Hill
Commander, Southwestern Division

Brig. Gen. David Hill, commander, Southwestern Division.
Brig. Gen. David Hill, commander, Southwestern Division.

Remember the drought? What a difference a year can make.  I arrived at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Southwestern Division in Dallas about a year ago, and most of the region was in some stage of drought. News coverage highlighted striking images of thirsty lakes, shorelines receding with lakebeds cracked and dry, and low Corps reservoir levels. Communities chafed under lawn watering restrictions.

The story line has changed in the last two months, as rain—lots of it—drenched us, swelled our rivers and tributaries, and filled many of our reservoirs to overflowing.   One after another, all four of our Southwestern Division districts in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas declared an emergency, the first time in our 78-year history.

The public followed us as we closely monitored our lake levels, and—always in coordination with local authorities and our partners—tweaked the water releases from the area lakes. People gathered to watch water coming over the spillways, and eagerly consumed the daily reports of which lakes were rising and the cubic feet per second releases from our reservoirs.

Our neighbors in the communities across our region witnessed, understood, and appreciated the efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers. They publicly praised and thanked us, in print and in social media, positive feedback that any government agency would greatly appreciate. We are deeply grateful for their understanding and support.

What they saw was not an anomaly. It was a very professional and dedicated cadre of engineers, hydrologists, and operations specialists carrying out their jobs around the clock at solidly built structures that were doing what they were designed to do: protect people and property during a potential flood event.

Flood risk management is the first and most significant benefit that Army Corps of Engineers lakes provide as a value to the nation, and the reservoirs along these lakes throughout our region were built primarily because of devastating floods in the last century.

Within the Southwestern Division, we have a robust Flood Risk Management program, with 74 flood damage reduction lakes/reservoirs; 33.22 million acre-feet of flood storage (in non-engineer math, that’s about 13,984 Cowboy Stadiums); and $85 billion in cumulative flood damage prevention. These figures do not include our 760 miles of local flood protection projects. Nationally, for every $1 invested (adjusted for inflation), Corps of Engineers flood protection systems prevent about $7.89 in damages.

While we don’t know yet how much damage was prevented this time around by Corps reservoirs, we do know historically what happened before they were built:   devastating floods, with countless lives lost, thousands left homeless, and astronomical property damages. With the growth in communities and industry that has occurred in the last 50 years, the loss of life and damage that could have occurred without these reservoirs is simply unthinkable.

Our reservoirs performed as designed—because they always do, whether flood or drought. They operate on a life cycle approach. During a flood event, they allow us to hold and then make controlled releases to prevent flooding downstream. During a drought, they allow us to store rainwater that has fallen earlier and conserve it for other authorized uses, such as water supply or hydropower.

So when these very reservoirs were operating during the drought, they still supplied hydropower to the Southwestern Power Administration in Oklahoma, for example, or water to North Texas Municipal Water District in Texas. And they were operating as designed.

Our infrastructure also sustained some damage, and that damage must be thoroughly assessed and repaired. Think of the scope of the rainfall: 35 trillion gallons of rain in Texas in May alone, enough to cover the entire state of Texas in 8 inches of water.

Some of that damage was to our recreation facilities on the lakes, which provide another authorized purpose of these projects: recreation. Many of our recreational areas were closed for Memorial Day, and might not be open until Labor Day. We know that’s an inconvenience for people. We ask for your continued support.   We’ll make every effort to reopen as quickly and as safely as possible.

But our primary goal must continue to be flood risk management, the reason that the reservoirs were built. Our attention will be on getting them back into top shape to protect you and your community—which is, after all, our community too—for the next major weather event that comes our way.

Thank you again, partners, stakeholders, and community members for your great support of the Army Corps of Engineers! As we have seen these past two months, our greatest partnership is when we all work together as and for the American people.