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Little Rock District Civilian of the Year

The 2017 Little Rock District Civilian of the Year award was bestowed on Joel Epperson, deputy operations project manager for the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) project office, during the district’s annual Corps Day award ceremony June 21.

“I was completely shocked when my supervisor told me that I was selected for this award,” said Epperson. “It is a humbling experience to be nominated much less win such a high honor.”

Joel Epperson (center) receives his award from COL Robert Dixon, Little Rock District Commander and Craig Pierce, District Deputy for Programs and Project Management.

Epperson started his Corps career more than 31 years ago working at Lake Dardanelle on the MKARNS. He has always believed that hard work would pay-off and did not go looking for promotions. Those promotions found him over the years.

“I never thought about my next job or promotion, but somehow things just lined-up perfect and I was selected for new opportunities at just the right time for me, my family and the Corps. My most recent move had me leaving a staff of 17 to leading a team of more than 200 people up and down the MKARNS,” said Epperson.

And according to Epperson, a native of Conway, that move came with its share of challenges and rewards.

“My current position has a lot of moving parts and a huge annual budget. My team works all shifts, 24/7, 365 days a year. Making sure we have the right people in the right places at the right time, with all the challenges of employee turnover, deployments and temporary duty assignments keeps me on my toes.

“But I find the most rewarding part of the job is the people. Hiring quality people to fill key positions and helping them learn their new job is very rewarding,” according to Epperson.

Joel Epperson, Little Rock District’s 2018 Civilian of the Year, discusses operations at Toad Suck Lock on the MKARNS. Epperson, a native of Conway, Arkansas has worked in the district for 31 years.

Those people working across Arkansas on the navigation system in turn help drive Epperson.

“I am inspired by our people,” said Epperson. “What they do each and every day pushes me to do better. I work hard every day to take care of our people and keep my main focus on the site offices across the [MKARNS] system so they can remain focused on their mission.”

According to the award submission, Epperson “displays professionalism and integrity in all actions, both on and off duty. In addition, Epperson has performed his supervisory duties in an exemplary manner while taking the time to mentor the next generation of leaders within the organization.”

The one main theme that recurs while talking with Epperson is family and friends. Their support has helped him reach his current position and be recognized with this award.

Joel Epperson, deputy operations project manager for the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) project office, is the Little Rock Distirct’s 2018 Civilian of the Year

“I could not have accomplished half the things I have during my career without the love and support of my family,” said Epperson. “They have always stood with me and that goes for all my brothers and sisters in the [Little Rock] district. I feel like all the people I work with day in and day out are my extended family. That is a great feeling to have at work.”

Heavy Duty Crane in Action

Why would you weigh a 225 ton power generation rotor unless you really have a good reason? The answer, the exact weight is very important to the safety of everyone working at the Beaver Dam power house.

A team of technicians and engineers from across the Little Rock District set-up scales to weigh a 225-ton power house rotor at Beaver Dam. Photo by Julie Ann Massey.

The in-house bridge crane system at Beaver Dam has a maximum rated lifting capacity of 450,000 pounds. According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineer guidelines, a crane is limited to two lifts in excess of the maximum rated lift capacity in a 12 month period. If the rotor and lifting beam weighed less than 450,000 pounds, the team in the Beaver Dam power house would be able to proceed with the rehabilitation of their bridge crane. The only problem…a mechanical drawing for the crane and beam stated the total weight at 455,000 pounds.

Team members closely monitor scale readouts during the rotor weighing process. Photo by Julie Ann Massey.

To guarantee safety, a team from across the Little Rock District was assembled to weigh the massive rotor. They placed four jacks within an 8 foot diameter around the erection bay pedestal to raise the rotor. This diameter keeps the load directly over the concrete column that was designed to support the tremendous weight. Scales were placed between the rotor and the jacks. The large bolts that attached the rotor to the pedestal were loosened. The rotor was picked up and weighed twice. The measured weight with the lift beam was 449,320 pounds, which is just under the crane’s rated capacity.

The team records the final weight – 449,320 pounds. That is just under the crane’s maximum rated lifting capacity of 225 tons. Photo by Julie Ann Massey.

Now that the team has an accurate measurement and the total weight is below 225 tons, the bridge crane rehab can proceed and the crane will provide years of safe and reliable service in the power house.

*  Photos and information provided by Julie Ann Massey, maintenance control specialist at Beaver Lake power house.