National Engineers Week Spotlight – Gabe Knight

Bio Stats: Gabriel (Gabe) Knight

Position: White River System Engineer in Reservoir Control Section

Years with SWL: 8.5

Hometown: Vilonia, Ark.

Education: B.S. Civil Engineering from Arkansas State University.  Working towards M.S. of Civil Engineering from Colorado State University.

Certifications: Professional Engineer, Certified Floodplain Manager

Hobbies: Spending time with family.  Hunting, fishing and being outdoors.


Q:  You have been with the district 8.5 years, how has your job evolved?  Was it what you thought it would be?

A:  Not exactly.  My idea of working for the USACE was somewhat an extension of my ungraduated studies, i.e. developing straight-forward rainfall-runoff and hydraulic models.  I soon learned that USACE projects were different.  They required lots and lots of “data mining” or searching through old design manuals, previous studies, and operations manuals to be complete a study.  One of my biggest misconceptions was that I would have all the data needed to come to a conclusion.  I found out early in my career the importance of good engineering judgment.  This took time to develop and I am grateful for my coworkers in H&H that helped me along the way.

Q:  What positions have you held in the district?

A: I began as a Department of Army intern in the Hydrology and Hydraulics Section.  I spent eight years developing as a hydraulic engineer in H&H working on floodplain studies, dam and levee studies, flood reduction studies and some real-time water management.  I now serve in the Reservoir Control Section as the engineer in charge of implementing the water control plan for the White River lakes (Beaver, Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Norfork and Greers Ferry).  This entails some inflow and pool forecasting, reservoir routing, and system analysis to ensure that the projects authorized purposes are being met.

Q: If you have held more than one job what was your favorite?

A:  This is tough one.  They have their similarities and differences although they both deal in water resources.  In H&H I was involved in some complex, technical modeling for floodplain and dam & levee safety type studies.  In ResCon there is still a big technical aspect to my job, but also a personal side that involves managing the expectations of the vastly diverse group of stakeholders.

Q:  What are your short and long term professional and personal goals?

A:  Professional – Finishing my graduate degree and apply what I learn.

A:  Personal – Keep site of my priorities and live them.   This is something I tend to drift from when life seems chaotic.  If I can stay focused on God and my family, the important things will be taken care of.

Q:  If you were in the intern program, how did that help you with your job?

A:  The DA intern program introduced me to all the various government/military requirements, and the many acronyms associated with them.  Formal training, other training individual development plan’s, temporary duty, Comprehensive Assessment and Planning Model, Defense Acquisition University, etc. exposure to these things was a valuable aspect to the program.   Also, while rotating through different branches of the USACE I gained a general understanding of how the organization is structured and how things fit together.

Q:  What do you enjoy most about your job?

A:  My favorite thing about my job is the unpredictability of its nature.  Before taking a job in ResCon, I assumed the monotony of doing the same thing every day would wear on me.  However, it has been

everything but dull.  Each day seems to have its set of different issues or complications.  Whether it is poor water quality at Table Rock, siphon malfunctions at Norfork or canoe races at Bull Shoals, there is always something that keeps me on my toes and engaged in the day’s activities.

Q:  What projects are you working on now and what are some of the challenges?

A:  One of our biggest goals is incorporating new technology into our regulating activities.  Utilizing new software to help optimize flood operations and more accurately assess the benefits of our reservoirs has become a priority of the branch.  A big challenge of moving forward is forgetting or overlooking things of the past.  Hydraulics and Technical Services Branch has lost a good deal of institutional knowledge through the many recent retirees.

Q:  What has been your favorite project you have worked on?

A:  Working during floods have been the most enjoyable thing I have done.  Whether its forecasting inflows before the event or setting high water marks after, flood activities are always the most exciting part of my job.

Q:  What ways have you found to balance your home life with the busy schedule you have at work?

A:  Having faith in the ability of my coworkers has allowed me to achieve a good home – work balance.  I can take leave knowing that the White River System is in good hands thanks to the competent of my peers.

Q:  Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?

A:  I used to go hogging for catfish.  That’s where you stick your hand into a hole or box underwater and hopefully wrestle a fish out.  However, since working on dam and levee safety projects, I’ve sharpened my risk assessment tools.  Needless to say, I no longer partake.

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