Defense Media Network

USACE: Great Lakes and Ohio River Division

CANANDAIGUA VA MEDICAL CENTER MEGA PROJECT WILL DELIVER VITAL HEALTH CARE SERVICES TO VETERANS 

BY JESS LEVENSON, Buffalo District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are partners in delivering the Canandaigua VA Medical Center mega project, providing a state-of-the-art medical facility and health care service infrastructure to approximately 65,000 veterans living in and around the greater Canandaigua, New York, area. 

“We are forever grateful to our men and women in uniform,” said USACE Buffalo District Commander Lt. Col. Jason Toth. “Updating the Canandaigua Medical Center is essential to making sure that New York’s veterans have access to the best medical care possible.” The project is directly managed by USACE’s Buffalo District in concert with the VA Office of Construction and Facilities Management and the Canandaigua VA Medical Center. The Louisville District will provide technical expertise on the vertical construction of the project. 

“The major construction project at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center provides much-needed updates to a campus that is more than 80 years old,” said Kenneth P. Piazza, acting medical center director. 

A primary goal of the project is the efficient delivery of health care services. Accordingly, the project will minimize recurring maintenance costs for underutilized buildings and improve areas such as safety/compliance requirements, patient privacy standards, and security and access points. 

The project contains two phases. USACE successfully initiated Phase I (Outpatient Clinic) in January 2018 with an anticipated completion date in spring 2022. As of August 2018, Phase II (Community Living Center) was in the project assessment and acceptance phase. Phase II future milestones are based upon FY 19 congressional budget approval. 

Personnel from USACE contractor Pike-P.J. Dick prepare to encase electrical conduits in concrete to deliver power to the future outpatient clinic and temporary kitchen, May 18, 2018.

Personnel from USACE contractor Pike-P.J. Dick prepare to encase
electrical conduits in concrete to deliver power to the future outpatient clinic and temporary kitchen, May 18, 2018.

Phase I work includes renovation of the administration building, demolition of the dining room and kitchen, as well as construction of a chiller/emergency generator plant and outpatient clinic. 

Phase II work includes constructing a community living center, a community center, renovations to existing buildings, and utility system upgrades to support the new and renovated spaces. 

“To execute the project, we formed a regional project delivery team comprised of subject-matter experts from the Buffalo and Louisville districts, as well as the USACE Medical Center of Expertise,” said Gerald DiPaola, Buffalo District project manager. 

“USACE brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the project,” said Piazza. “Both the Veterans Health Administration and USACE have approached the process by placing a high emphasis on partnering and sharing of information.” 

USACE’s partnership with the VA resulted in formal agreements for design and construction oversight of 13 major medical facilities valued at approximately $6 billion. One such facility, the Rocky Mountain Regional Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado, opened in August 2018. 

“Investment in the facility demonstrates federal government support for veteran care at the medical center as well as support for local employment,” said Piazza. “It gives me a sense of pride in knowing that we will continue to provide the best possible care to veterans that seek medical care here.” 

“For myself, this project serves as a reminder of my service in the U.S. Army,” said DiPaola. “I look forward to seeing our veterans’ lives and their families’ lives improved by these state-of-the-art facilities, in an environment that promotes healing and honors veterans’ service.” 

“The history of the Corps of Engineers is linked to our armed forces and our veterans,” said Lt. Col. Jason Toth. “We’re proud to deliver solutions for the challenges they face, now and into the future.”

 

CHICAGO DISTRICT TEAM HAS A DECADESLONG COMMITMENT TO McCOOK RESIVIOR 

BY VANESSA VILLARREAL, Chicago District 

For decades, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Chicago District has been working on McCook Reservoir, a massive, multi-stage flood risk management project in south-west Cook County that’s been one of the largest undertakings it has ever had.

The reservoir, a partnership between USACE and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Greater Chicago, is part of the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) that covers Chicago and 51 suburbs – a 375-square-mile area. The Deep Tunnel system includes three reservoirs – Majewski, Thornton, and McCook – as an outlet for TARP water. McCook Reservoir will benefit Chicago and 36 suburbs, protecting 570,000 structures and 3 million
people. It will also help to prevent transportation disruptions from flooding for Chicago, a transportation hub for the nation. It will hold 10 billion gallons of combined sewer (sanitary and storm) overflows that cause flooding and watercourse contamination. On Dec. 4, 2017, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to mark the completion of McCook Reservoir Stage 1 with Stage 2 complete in 2029.

The McCook project delivery team (PDT) faced a hard deadline of Dec. 31, 2017, to get Stage 1 online. Over the past several years, the team worked with a sense of urgency to meet the deadline. The PDT focused attention on the result, project execution, customer satisfaction, and worked synergistically to achieve the great success of delivering the reservoir before the cutoff date.

For some of the McCook PDT, the deadline was the culmination of decades of work on the reservoir. Large civil works projects often take decades to implement from planning through design and final construction. The McCook Reservoir was first conceived in the 1960s and was authorized by Congress in 1988. Some of the PDT members
have served on the team for many years.

As the McCook project manager, Mike Padilla, Programs and Project Management Branch, began work on the reservoir in 1993 when he was still an engineering intern, and worked on the project from 1993 to 2000. He worked on the civil design section of the design documentation report (DDR) for the old McCook Quarry Reservoir, the site of the original project before Congress moved it to the present lagoons’ site. The district had just finished the McCook Quarry DDR when it was tasked by Congress to evaluate a different site. He worked on the resulting special re-evaluation report that recommended the current lagoons’ reservoir site. Ironically, the lagoons’ site was the proposed site of the reservoir in planning reports from the early 1970s before it was rejected in favor of the McCook Quarry site. During Padilla’s work with civil design, he designed the overall site layout and the connecting tunnel alignments for the new reservoir. Later, he left Chicago to work for USACE’s Seattle District as a project manager and returned in 2010 to take over as project manager for the McCook Project. 

The project has resulted in numerous state-of-the-art advancements for many different geotechnical and geology design and construction approaches, including transforming soil-bentonite slurry walls into rock; foundation grouting for seepage control more than 300 foot deep; rock wall stabilization of 250-foot-high walls; soil slope stabilization; large diameter rock tunneling and very large underground excavations; automated instrumentation; and rock-stress modeling, which has provided a wealth of experience to USACE and the overall construction industry. 

Chicago District Commander Col. Aaron Reisinger speaks at the Dec. 4, 2017, McCook ribbon-cutting ceremony. Stage 1 of the McCook Reservoir can be seen in the background. 

Chicago District Commander Col. Aaron Reisinger speaks at the Dec. 4, 2017, McCook ribbon-cutting ceremony. Stage 1 of the McCook Reservoir can be seen in the background.

Padilla and the rest of the team of about 90 had their decades of work affirmed when the reservoir was put to the test during the storm event of Feb. 21, 2018. The storm filled the reservoir to capacity. However, the reservoir performed as designed and prevented an estimated $30 million in flood damages, a performance that indeed culminated decades of the team’s planning, engineering, design, and construction efforts.

 

PATH AHEAD FOR NEW SOO LOCK

BY LYNN ROSE, Detroit District

The path has been laid for a new lock at the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, with an updated economic study. The recent completion of the “New Soo Lock Economic Validation Study” report establishes updated economics and a new benefit to cost ratio for the construction of a second lock with the same dimensions as the current Poe Lock. 

“The Detroit District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), is proud to operate and maintain the Soo Locks in service to the nation. Now we’re ready to get after the construction of the new ‘Poe-sized’ lock in order to continue to provide reliable navigation at this critical node in the Great Lakes Navigation System,” said Lt. Col. Greg Turner, district engineer. 

An artist’s rendition that illustrates what it might look like if a second Poe-sized lock replaced two of the older locks (left portion of the photo). The Poe Lock, opened in 1969, was the last lock built in the Soo Locks system, the only passage between Lake Superior and the lower lakes. A second Poe-sized lock (far left), the Poe Lock (center), and MacArthur Lock (far right).

An artist’s rendition that illustrates what it might look like if a second Poe-sized lock replaced two of the older locks (left portion of the photo). The Poe Lock, opened in 1969, was the last lock built in the Soo Locks system, the only passage between Lake Superior and the lower lakes. A second Poe-sized lock (far left), the Poe Lock (center), and MacArthur Lock (far right).

The Soo Locks are situated on the St. Mary’s River at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and allow vessels to transit the St. Mary’s River rapids located between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Eighty-five percent of annual Soo Locks tonnage is restricted to the Poe Lock due to vessel size – there is no other alternative mode of transportation if the Poe Lock experiences a significant service disruption.

“An outage at the Soo Locks would have very significant [affects] to the U.S. economy, particularly steel manufacturers,” said Mollie Mahoney, project manager for the new lock project, “because 100 percent of the nation’s advanced high-strength steel used for the manufacture of products like automobiles and appliances is made with taconite [iron ore] that transits the Poe Lock.” 

The report will allow the project to compete with other construction projects throughout the country for funding. The new Soo lock is estimated to cost approximately $1 billion and if funded in an efficient manner, construction of the project could be complete in seven to 10 years.

 

BLUESTONE DAM EDGES CLOSER TO COMPLETION 

BY BRIAN MAKA, Huntington District

Towering above the scenic New River in southern West Virginia, Bluestone Dam seems out of place.

It’s a massive concrete structure built in the 1940s to reduce flooding across the state. It stands 165 feet tall and stretches almost a half-mile across the rustic river valley, creating the 11-mile-long Bluestone Lake. 

But despite its size and its long history of success – preventing more than $5 billion in flood damages during its lifetime – the ability of the dam to withstand a major storm was called into question in the late 1990s. 

New information about the bedrock below the dam and the potential strength of future storms sparked concern, and in the 20 years since, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has labored to bring the dam up to modern safety standards as part of its Dam Safety Assurance project. 

That has been accomplished through a combination of innovative techniques and classic construction safeguards. That has included building a massive concrete thrust block to strengthen the dam, redesigning and strengthening the stilling basin – which “stills” the water and removes its energy before it continues downstream – and stabilizing the dam with a unique system of anchors. Senior Project Manager Aaron Smith said, “We’ve been installing nearly 500 rock anchors into the face and top of the dam. These anchors are made up of 61 strands of wire rope that are directionally drilled deep into the bedrock and help the dam resist the intense forces of extreme storm waters up against the face of the dam.” 

The work has been completed over the years as funding has become available, and now the final steps are in reach, thanks to the announcement that the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which was signed into law Feb. 9, 2018. It has provided $574.7 million to USACE for construction at Bluestone Dam. 

An aerial view of Bluestone Dam as it releases water held back during a storm to reduce levels downriver.

An aerial view of Bluestone Dam as
it releases water held back during a
storm to reduce levels downriver.

“In providing the current working estimates of funds required to fully fund these studies and construction projects, the Corps is showing its commitment to “moving dirt” and, more importantly, to completing studies and construction,” according to R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works. 

That funding will allow the completion of the Dam Safety Assurance work at Bluestone, including re-armoring the large spillway area below the main section of the dam. That effort will require blocking off the spillway one section at a time, allowing normal dam operations to continue through the construction process. 

A concrete dividing wall will be installed, the basin will be lined with concrete, and super baffles will be constructed.
The project is a major investment for the future, insuring that Bluestone Dam will be able to safely hold back and discharge water flows in most flood conditions. When completed, the dam will be able to handle all but the most
catastrophic weather event – and will continue doing the job it has done so well for the past 70 years – protecting the residents who live below its towering walls. 

 

OLMSTED LOCKS AND DAM: SECURING THROUGH INFRASTRUCTURE THE NATION

BY TODD HORNBACK, Louisville District 

With District dedication, a mantra of “We are Olmsted,” Louisville employees and retirees reflected on the determination, and work to complete Olmsted Locks and Dam project that has crossed three decades. 

“Adversity builds character, but more importantly, adversity reveals character, and the individuals involved in delivering this project certainly showed the character,” said Mike Braden, former Olmsted Division chief. 

John Allison, deputy chief of engineering division, served as the project engineer for the first contract with the Olmsted project, which consisted of the access road into the site along with the engineer’s office that has been used for 30 years. 

“For three or four years, we talked about creating concrete that would float. But on that cold November morning in the early 2000s, we stood there, and we could feel we were moving and floating in that water,” Allison said. 

Marcella Denton, IT operations officer, worked as a geotechnical engineer at the beginning of the Olmsted Locks and Dam project, which started construction in the early 1990s. 

An aerial view of the completed Olmsted Locks and Dam project on the lower Ohio River

An aerial view of the completed Olmsted Locks and Dam project on the lower Ohio River.

“My job was sampling and testing, reading instrumentation on the site, and cataloging thousands of feet of boring logs,” Denton said of her geotechnical work. “I am honored to be a small part of this engineering marvel.” 

David Dale became the first Olmsted division chief in 2012. Now retired, Dale said, “There are three things I want to share with you that I think contributed to that success. One was the laser-like focus that we established to deliver the project ahead of schedule and under budget with a very high level of quality in a safe manner. 

“The second part was the partnership we had with our AECOM contractor with the Corps employees and staff,” he said. “The third item was a true focus on risk management, the active looking ahead at items that could impact the project and taking proactive measures to mitigate those and to deliver the program.” 

Serving as staff engineer from 1996 to 2000 at the construction field office, Mike Braden served as Olmsted Division chief from July 2013 to July 2018. 

“How fortunate I was to be part of the delivery of what my estimation is, after the Panama Canal, the second-most ambitious navigation project ever attempted by the Corps of Engineers,” Braden said. “To be part of one of the most innovative navigation projects the Corps has ever delivered, I feel fortunate to be part of that experience. 

“For a project that has the lifespan of an Olmsted Locks and Dam project, there are good times and bad times. Rather than to get down during some of the challenges with the project, our team really rallied, especially in light of deteriorating condition at Locks and Dams 52 and 53 as they approach the end of their service life and the urgency to deliver Olmsted sooner rather than later came into focus.” 

Braden credited the project delivery team in advancing the delivery of the project within four years while saving several millions of dollars to be spread to other navigation projects across the enterprise. 

USACE Louisville District personnel continue testing new equipment that will raise the wickets on the dam at Olmsted, Illinois.

USACE Louisville District personnel continue testing new equipment that will raise the wickets on the dam at Olmsted, Illinois.

The true character of those who worked on the project is brought to light by the James M. Keen Wicket Lifter, named after a project staffer who retired from the project in 2012 and passed away in 2016. 

Employees will use the lifter to raise and lower 140 wickets at the project to create a navigable pool. As one employee stated, the wicket lifter’s picking arm is like a Swiss army knife and has interchangeable equipment, including water jets and fork. The Olmsted team used the wicket lifter to raise the first wicket at the project on June 13, 2018. The wicket lifter showcases the project’s end of construction and proves USACE’s dedication and commitment to strengthening the nation’s security through infrastructure.

This strategic reach of the Ohio River connects to the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Mississippi rivers to form the hub of the Inland Waterways Transportation System. More tonnage passes through this point than any other place in America’s inland navigation system, and is a critical reach of water from a commercial navigation perspective.

With the project in operation in 2018, the next step will be the removal of Locks and Dams 52 and 53, with expected completion in 2022. 

 

HEAVY CONCRETE SHELL PLACEMENT AT KENTUCKY LOCK NOT TAKEN LIGHTLY 

BY LEE ROBERTS, Nashville District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Nashville District successfully placed the first 1.3-million-pound concrete shell on the riverbed Aug. 6, 2018, that will be part of the downstream cofferdam and the permanent lock wall for the Kentucky Lock Addition Project.

A towboat moved the barge with the concrete shell into position underneath the gantry crane just below the existing Kentucky Lock late afternoon on Aug. 2. On Aug. 4, during the final lift, a problem developed in the lift system. Engineers worked all weekend until early Monday morning, making repairs.
The 46-foot-wide by 51-foot-long by 33-foot-high concrete shell is the first of 10 shells to be placed in the Tennessee River at the Tennessee Valley Authority project.

Don Getty, Nashville District’s project manager for the Kentucky Lock Addition Project, said the challenges everyone faced with the heavy lift were not taken lightly, as all involved took the necessary time to make sure the lift system operated as designed so the shell could be placed safely.

“The learning curve on a new, unique, and complicated construction technique is steep,” Getty said. “We believe that aspects of this lift-in design have never been attempted.”

Barney Schulte, technical engineer for Kentucky Lock Addition Project, checks specifications for the gantry crane lift system in preparation for the movement of a 1.3-million-pound concrete shell Aug. 4, 2018, into the downstream riverbed to form a cofferdam. The shell will also be part of the permanent lock wall.

Barney Schulte, technical engineer for Kentucky Lock Addition Project, checks specifications for the gantry crane lift system in preparation for the movement of a 1.3-million-pound concrete shell Aug. 4, 2018, into the downstream riverbed to form a cofferdam. The shell will also be part of the permanent lock wall.

Once all of the technical issues with the lift system were resolved on Aug. 6, the gantry barge moved the concrete shell about 200 yards to position itself in the sit-down location where the contractor placed the shell into the water onto a prepared foundation on the bedrock. Crews finished its placement near midnight, and the Kentucky Lock reopened to barge traffic soon after.

Jeremiah Manning, resident engineer for the Kentucky Lock Addition Project, lauded his team of on-site construction managers and the contractor partner, who set the first concrete shell and are working together to deliver the program for the downstream cofferdam project. “The lift-in technique that we’re using here in itself is unique with aspects that have never been used anywhere else,” Manning said.With the first concrete shell in position, it will be sealed and then filled partially with “tremie concrete,” placed through a pipe underwater to the bottom of the shell to cure. All told, about 11 million pounds of concrete will be placed to fill the shell. USACE is constructing the new navigation lock to reduce the significant bottleneck that the 600-foot-long current lock causes on
this important waterway.

When completed, the downstream cofferdam will make possible to excavate and construct the new lock in dry conditions. The total cost for the Kentucky Lock project is $1.25 billion with about $455 million expended to date, or about 36 percent complete. Funding bottlenecks that have plagued the project since construction began in 1998 have been lifted in the last three years. This has allowed progress to proceed full tilt for the downstream cofferdam and allowed the advertisement of the next large construction contract: the downstream lock excavation. This
contract is expected to be awarded by Sept. 30, 2018.

 

#KNOWTAKEWEAR

An effort to save lives by raising awareness 

BY JEFF HAWK, Pittsburgh District 

Only knowing wearing an individual a the life waterways, jacket. 

Life jackets can’t save lives. They can’t warn of the hazards that lie ahead. They can’t educate and inform. They can’t affix themselves to someone.

Those three simple, life-saving measures are the focal point for Pittsburgh District’s new water safety awareness campaign titled, “KnowTakeWear.” 

The initiative is a shared effort among the district and its water safety partners who have embraced the call to action. 

“To be successful, this initiative must become a sustained drumbeat by a dedicated, ever-expanding coalition of organizations and individuals,” said Col. Andrew “Coby” Short, commander, Pittsburgh District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). 

The first essential beat is knowing the waterways. Pittsburgh’s three rivers provide great recreational opportunities and plenty of ways to find trouble. 

From tows that take a mile to stop, to fast flows and floating debris, to fixed-crest dams that are difficult to see when moving downstream, the hazards that exist on area waterways can be deadly for the uniformed. 

“If someone arrives at a navigation facility without knowing it exists or the dangers it can present, they’ve already placed themselves in jeopardy,” said Short. 

The availability of mobile apps and social media place river conditions, weather forecasts, navigation charts, and more at the fingertips of paddlers, boaters, and the fishing community. 

The Pittsburgh District developed the USACE Pittsburgh app that allows the public to access information whether kayaking or cabin cruising. 

The district also holds events to promote the KnowTakeWear message, including an annual water safety summit, Lockfest events, and Paddler Safety Lock-Throughs. 

During Lockfests, USACE lock operators familiarize the public and media with safe locking procedures at a lock and dam facility. Representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Allegheny River Development Corporation, and the navigation industry also share information at the event, emphasizing safety considerations in the Pittsburgh area’s increasingly congested waterways. 

A new partnership between the Pittsburgh District and Venture Outdoors – a nonprofit that promotes outdoor activities – has captured media interest and helped boost the profile of KnowTakeWear. 

USACE and Venture Outdoors invite media to kayak through an Allegheny River lock with a fixed-crest dam so that they better understand the hazards associated with these dams and how to avoid them. 

Park Ranger, Julie Stone serves as a part of the newly formed pilot program, River Rangers and watches paddlers approach Lock and Dam 2 on the Allegheny River. Stone and the river rangers promote and enforce water safety policies, which helps to ensure river users, pass through the district’s navigation facilities safely.

Park Ranger, Julie Stone serves as a part of the newly formed pilot program, River Rangers and watches paddlers approach Lock and Dam 2 on the Allegheny River. Stone and the river rangers promote and enforce water safety policies, which helps to ensure river users, pass through the district’s navigation facilities safely.

The event generates traditional and social media coverage that helps spread KnowTakeWear to thousands. 

“If we can get the word to the most vulnerable boaters out there – those using paddleboards and kayaks – then we have a good chance of saving lives,” said Short. 

Park ranger Julie Stone serves as a part of the newly formed pilot program River Rangers and watches paddlers approach Lock and Dam 2 on the Allegheny River. Stone and the river rangers promote and enforce water safety policies, which helps to ensure river users pass through the district’s navigation facilities safely. 

A new 2018 pilot program is enforcing the message. The River Ranger Program involves random visitations to busy locks by park rangers. River Rangers encourage safe boating practices and enforce a new life jacket policy that requires all those aboard a boat and involved in the locking process to wear a personal flotation device. 

As the affordability of paddle craft increases and the revitalization of local waterways continues, the message of KnowTakeWear becomes more vital, especially for those venturing out for the first time. 

“Nowadays, you can buy a kayak for less than a bicycle, get on the water without any training or knowledge, and quickly place yourself in extreme danger,” said Short. “We’re committed to doing our part to raise awareness; we urge individuals to do theirs by knowing the waterways, taking a water safety course, and wearing a life jacket.”

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