Innovative solutions, partners sought for $27 billion in Corps of Engineers projects

Published 5:07 pm Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division is looking for help delivering $27 billion in civil works projects.

“We’ve got our hands in the game,” said Thomas Holden, regional business director for the Mississippi Valley Division and the Mississippi River Commission, adding the Corps will be looking to several areas outside the Corps for assistance.

“For you in industry, academia and ERDC (U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center), this is a call to action on helping us,” he said. “What we want to do is have a pull system, not a push system.”

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Holden’s remarks came at the opening session for the final day of the two-day U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Innovation Summit at ERDC.

He said the great flood of 1927, which resulted in the development of the Waterways Experiment Station, allowed the Corps to develop innovative structures for flood fighting. The catalyst for Waterways, he said, “Was a pull system; we want to get ahead of that.”

Holden discussed innovations developed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and for other projects performed by the Corps for locks, dams and other existing structures, and how the Corps has teamed with industry to improve the way some projects are done and at a lower cost.

He discussed the collaboration between the Corps and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, Pa., to develop a new mat sinking unit, which lays concrete mats to prevent erosion along the river. The present unit, he said, has been in use since the 1940s.

“We’ve been using it successfully, but it’s time to replace it,” he said. “We’re going with robotics. Carnegie Mellon is working with us, and this national robotics center is designing this so we can increase the production rate four-fold, and we can do more to operate and maintain this system.”

He also talked about the need for programmable drones to help identify problems faster.

Holden encouraged those attending the summit to meet with MVD representatives to get information and requirements for the civil works program, outlining areas where support and innovation development are needed.

One such area in need of innovation and support is impermeable concrete that can be used for on-the-spot repairs and work in subzero weather, “because that’s how we operate in the upper river.” Robotic dredging and the capability to detect the movement of water underground to target where changes occur are other areas of interest.

“This is the beginning,” he said. “Those of you here, this is not where you walk away with all the ideas.

“You need to come back and see the Corps of Engineers when we have every district and every commander, and they have their requirements, and challenges they have, and some of the things they need to have so we can get the pull system started instead of waiting for the next disaster and we have to react.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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