Rosemary Schmidt, Chief, Geology and Chemistry Section for Engineering/Planning, received a plaque from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Levee Safety Program during the Nov. 6 Command and Staff Meeting held in the Concord Park theater in Concord, Massachusetts.
Schmidt, who is a supervisory geologist and has been with the New England District since May 1992, received the award for her outstanding contributions to the International Levee Handbook. She was one of many contributors to the manual throughout the Corps.
“My involvement on the International Levee Handbook began in the fall of 2010,” said Schmidt. “At the encouragement of my former supervisor, Dr. Raimo Liias, I replied to an e-mail that had been sent out from Corps Headquarters, and I was selected to serve as the U.S. point of contact for "Chapter 7 on Site Characterization." I worked closely with the overall Chapter Lead, Shaun Wersching, a geotechnical engineer with CH2M Hill in the United Kingdom, and was responsible for coordinating input from all U.S. contributors, and ensuring linkage with the other related chapters on levee inspection, design, and construction.”
The handbook was published by CIRIA (Construction Industry Research and Information Association).
“This handbook was a collaboration between the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany,” said Schmidt’s supervisor Dave Margolis, Chief, GeoEnvironmental Engineering Branch.
According to Margolis, the governments of these countries realized a need for a single reference on good practice in the management and design of levees. “Rose was a major contributor to Chapter 7.”
Chapter 7 was over 300 pages on its own. Writing something so massive and on such a global scale didn't come without challenges. “Our first big surprise was that our chapter included characterizing both subsurface conditions and site hydrology/hydraulics, which required close collaboration with H & H team members,” said Schmidt. “What we discovered is that universally there is relatively little interaction between the two fields, as the hydrology/hydraulics effort is primarily up front, in determining the height required for a given level of protection (storm event), while the geotechnical engineering and geology effort is much later. Without Andy Gaines (MVM) covering the hydrology and hydraulics, we would have been adrift without a paddle,” she said.
According to Schmidt, unlike siting a dam, where a move upstream or downstream may be feasible to avoid poor ground conditions, there is not the same sort of flexibility with levees, and so potential problem areas are best identified during site characterization and accounted for during design.
Another challenge was that although many people from all over the globe were writing Chapter 7, it had to have a uniform style.
“It was a mammoth effort to draft an outline, showing a logical sequence of topics, and then identify the proper individuals who could make contributions for each topic, and then at the end of the day, still ensuring that the writing style reflected ‘one voice,’” said Schmidt. “Chapter 7 was truly an international collaboration, with roughly 40 individuals representing five countries, from both government agencies and private sector, contributing to the chapter. It was also a fantastic opportunity to meet and work with the other U.S. chapter leads, such as Christina Neutz (LRL) and Jamie McVicker (MVS), as well as the international team leading the effort, especially Jonathan Simm (HR Wallingford, United Kingdom) who helped guide the overall effort. Corps Headquarters support from Eric Halpin and Tammy Conforti was also greatly appreciated.”
Even language sometimes had to be defined. “It was interesting adapting to British English, and use of terms not normally used on U.S. levees; for example, ‘hidey-holes’ instead of animal burrows,” said Schmidt.
Working on the chapter provided Schmidt and the team some unique opportunities as well. “We introduced the term ‘Conceptual Site Model’ to the levee community,” she said. “The CSM is a common term used in the environmental field to express the conceptual understanding of site subsurface conditions, and how the geologic depositional environments and the resulting material properties (strength, permeability) in turn impact project performance (stability, seepage and piping, etc.). It’s an opportunity to get inside the designer’s head, to understand how the designer perceived the site, and how this understanding was translated into design assumptions.”
When Chapter 7 was completed, it joined nine other chapters to complete the massive manual. “The first six chapters are geared to an audience of levee owners and operators, while chapters 7 through 10 will be of interest to those responsible for designing and constructing levees,” said Schmidt.
Looking back at the experience, Schmidt said that she enjoyed the tours of the Thames River Barrier and the Sacramento levees. “One of my favorite memories was coming into the office for a 4 a.m. conference call,” she said.
The award Schmidt received during the Command and Staff Meeting was signed by James Dalton, P.E., SES, Chief Engineering and Construction Division, Directorate of Civil Works; Eric Halpin, P.E., Special Assistant for the Dam and Levee Safety Program; and Tammy Conforti, P.E., Levee Safety Program Manager.