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Geotechnical & Design Challenges

in Rebuilding Levees
Dr. Rob Mullins, PE, PMP, AICP
Vice President
SAME Detroit Post Meeting
Detroit, MI
9 November 2011
Safety Moment
If you live in a flood-prone area, heres some advice from
Get an emergency supply kit
Make a plan
Be informed
Understand flood causes
Know your risks
Prepare your home/business
Listen to local officials
Execute the plan, when required! Southbound Lodge Freeway, Detroit, MI
Credit: WJ BK | May 2011
Stantec Corporate Overview
Stantec is an agile, entrepreneurial
publicly-owned company with more
than 11,000 employees.
$1.5+ billion in 2010 revenue
Steady growth and unbroken
profitability for over 57 years
Projects in over 80 countries
170 offices in North America
Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Lansing, MI
Offices in the Caribbean, England,
India, and UAE
#25 on ENRs Top 500 Design Firms
USACE Regional IDIQs (prime or sub)
Stantec provides professional consulting services in planning, engineering, architecture, interior design, landscape
architecture, surveying, environmental sciences, project management, and project economics for infrastructure and
facilities projects. We support public and private sector clients in a diverse range of markets, at every stage, from
initial concept and financial feasibility to project completion and beyond.
Scope of USACEs New Orleans Levee Work
FFEBs Efforts and Lessons Learned
Levee Periodic Inspection Program
Related Programs (NFIP, RiskMAP, Levee Accreditation)
International Levee Handbook
Contact for further information
AP/Patrick Semansky Morganza, LA May 2011
The views presented herein are those of the presenter
and do not represent the views of either the Federal
Emergency Management Agency or the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers with respect to levee accreditation.
The following individuals contributed materials to this
Chris Hogan, PE
Geotechnical Engineer
US Army Corps of Engineers Risk Management Center
Blake Cotton, PE, LEED AP
Vice President
Fugro Consultants, Inc.
How many of you have walked on a levee?
How many have worked on a levee project?
How many of you
Were here for the May 2011 SE Michigan flooding?
Have visited New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck?
Visited Vermont since Hurricane Irene struck in September?
Whats one of the most dangerous perceptions held by
those living or working behind a levee?
Hint: Its the reason one agency no longer uses the
phrase flood protection.
Scope of USACEs New Orleans Work
350 mile levee system
100-year level of protection by 2011 hurricane season
Multiple sponsors and levee districts
Repair and reconstruction work occurring
Geotechnical Process Flow Diagram
FFEB Efforts
J oint venture of Fugro, Stantec, Eustis Engineering,
and Burns Cooley Dennis
Original contract was for $100 million over 3 years and
the follow-on is for $50 million over 5 years
> 3,200 borings for over 255,000 VLF
1,800 cone penetrometer tests for over 158,000 VLF
Laboratory testing
> 23,000 3-point UUs
> 17,000 Unconfined Compression
> 43,000 Atterberg Limits
> 3,600 Incremental Consolidation tests
Changes to Traditional Approaches
Analytical Programs
Traditional wedge-type slope stability models are being
Programs using Spencers Method have gained ground over
other methods
Borings vs. Cone Penetrometer Tests
Transferability of data
Geographic Information Systems
Because of the large number of
borings, samples, etc., a flexible, geo-
referenced management tool was
Used GIS for information storage, data
sharing, data depiction and
management, and communications.
Provided multiple routes to access data (i.e.,
maps, boring files, task orders, etc.)
The latest data were always available to
both USACE and joint venture team
members and their designers.
Lessons Learned
Information Sharing and Collaboration
Systems Approach
Risk Management
Lessons Learned
There have been no lost time accidents over the last
200,000 hours of work.
Safety was constantly stressed every job started with
a safety plan, tailgate meetings occurred regularly, and
lessons learned were fed back to other teams.
Constant threat of hurricane weather during prime
drilling season required exceptional planning.
Lessons Learned
Client and partnering
Field teams
Lab teams
Design teams
Lessons Learned
An army may travel on its stomach, but drill crews
travel on tubes.
Over two dozen drill crews were working
simultaneously at times making tube supply and pick-
up a critical link in the supply chain.
Keeping other supplies in the field also required
constant attention.
Lessons Learned
Information Sharing and Collaboration
USACE and FFEB were dedicated to continuous
Success required sharing of information and learning
traditional contract management model would not
Information Sharing Methods
Formal partnering meetings
Informal meetings and phone calls
Sharing research efforts
Sharing process documentation
Lessons Learned
Systems Approach
From drilling plan through sampling, testing, and
design, a systems approach was used.
Goal of the testing program was to put solid
geotechnical information in the hands of designers and
decision makers as quickly as possible.
A conventional approach of trying to optimize each
step in the process could have yielded a suboptimal
solution. Instead, we treated each part of the process
as part of an overall whole so that we could enhance
throughput while assuring quality.
We looked for potential bottlenecks in the system and
tried to address them before they became a problem
Lessons Learned
Because of a variety of factors including hurricane
damage, subsidence, potential sea level rise, and other
items, we learned that we could not take much for
Many benchmarks had settled significantly over time.
Features that showed up on as-built drawings simply werent
Lessons Learned
Risk Management
Risks were identified early and discussed often
Risk management is interwoven with many other
aspects of successful project execution including
safety, communications, logistics, etc.
Examples include
Evaluation of weather conditions and predicted storm paths
and relating those back to crew and lab evacuation plans
Estimating field and lab productivity and the impact on tube
delivery, extrusion, etc.
Anticipating subsurface conditions
Accounting for sea-level rise and subsidence in designs
Levee Periodic Inspection Program
Purpose of the Levee PI Program
The purpose of the PIs is to verify proper
operation and maintenance; evaluate
operational adequacy and structural stability;
identify features to monitor over time; and
improve the ability to communicate the overall
condition. Travis Tutka, PE, USACE, St.
Louis District
Periodic vs. Routine Inspections
Under the Levee Safety Program, USACE now conducts
two types of levee inspections:
Routine (Annual) Inspections every year
Periodic Inspections (PI) every 5 years
Both verify proper operation and maintenance (O&M)
and give an overall levee system rating for O&M.
A Periodic Inspection provides a more rigorous level of
assessment and is performed by a multidisciplinary team
of engineers.
Why do levee Periodic Inspections?
Periodic Inspections
Consists of three key steps:
Collection of existing and available data: Previous reports,
Emergency Action Plans, flood-fighting records, etc.
A field inspection: More detail than a Routine Inspection and
performed by a multidisciplinary team
An inspection report: Includes ratings for O&M items and overall
system rating, may include additional recommendations for items
to monitor, deficiencies to repair, or areas that need further
Communicating Results from the PI
The local USACE District will provide a copy of the Final
Periodic Inspection Report to the local levee sponsor.
A cover letter will give the overall system rating assigned by the
Levee Safety Officer.
The cover letter will also
highlight areas of concern;
help the sponsor communicate with with
affected stakeholders;
inform future actions; and
address deficiencies, as needed.
System Rating
Three ratings can be assigned: Acceptable (A),
Minimally Acceptable (M), Unacceptable (U).
This rating determines if a levee system is active in the
USACE Rehabilitation and Inspection Program.
Active levees are eligible for federal rehab funds (Public Law 84-
99) for damages caused by a flood event.
A levee system must maintain an Acceptable or Minimally
Acceptable rating to remain active in the PL 84-99 program.
What are the preliminary findings?
Financial capital availability affects everything.
Many communities cannot finance system maintenance.
Repair and rehabilitation funds are hard to find.
Human capital continues to be critical.
Having trained operators can make a huge difference in
O&M deficiencies (i.e., ruts, depressions, trees on levee,
rusty/missing parts, lack of scheduled maintenance on
equipment, non-permitted uses, etc.)
Aging infrastructure challenges
(e.g., parts availability for old
pumps and switchgear)
Repaired Levee, Dallas, TX
NCLS Draft Report, 2009
Preliminary Findings (continued)
Lack of integrated planning affects levee system
performance. Examples include
Layout and installation of utility lines that encroach on
levees or penetrate pervious soil layers providing
seepage pathways.
Addition of greenway paths and ramps may not fully
consider levee integrity.
Roadway redesign may render some closure structures
inoperable (e.g., pavement over sill prevents a good seal).
Effectiveness of zoning and enforcement when it
comes to encroachment issues is important.
People build decks that extend out to top of levee.
Evaluation standards and technology have evolved
Grand Forks, ND
NCLS Draft Report, 2009
USACEs National Levee Database (NLD)
USACE incorporated its findings into and has opened
the NLD for public viewing at
A series of webinars was held last week.
Contains information on
Attributes and condition of over 14,700 miles of levees
Links to other resources and agencies
Related Programs
National Flood Insurance Program
Levee Accreditation Program
National Flood Insurance Program
Provides homeowners and businesses with some level
of economic protection against flood events.
Provides guidelines for smarter floodplain development.
RiskMAP: Its not just about the map
Risk Mapping, Assessment, and Planning Strategy
RiskMAP is the next step beyond floodplain delineation
and rate map modernization program (converting maps
to digital form).
RiskMAP is characterized by:
Federal/State/Local Collaboration;
Determine flooding data gaps;
Delivering high quality flood hazard data; and
Providing a basis for increased public awareness and
action plans to reduce risk and decrease damages.
Three large national firms/J Vs performing this work.
Levee Accreditation Program Requirements
Embankment Protection
Embankment and Foundation Stability
Interior Drainage
Other Design Criteria
Submit certified as-built levee plans
What do 65.2 and 65.10 say when read together?
That the work was done using sound engineering practices.
Alternatively, a Federal agency with responsibility
for levee design may certify
What the accreditation process is not
It is not a performance standard.
It is not a safety standard.
Every levee owner must ensure that their levee system is
designed to the appropriate level for their needs and risk
tolerance (i.e., 100-year, 500-year, etc.), is maintained,
and performs properly.
Graphic courtesy of ASCE.
Potential Interplay of Programs
How many of you have supported communities on their
floodplain ordinances or planning?
In order to be shown as protective on a flood insurance
rate map (FIRM), a levee must be accredited.
Many communities are operating under PAL
(provisionally accredited levee) letters. If a levee is not
accredited within the given time, FEMA may deaccredit
it and show it as non-protective on the FIRM.
The levee PI program may point out a number
of shortcomings in levee systems that can
guide O&M efforts that could lead to
Potential Adverse Interplay of Programs
Levee periodic inspection results in overall
Unacceptable rating.
Levee owner operates under a provisionally-accredited
levee designation.
Levee owner cant fix all deficiencies within the PAL
time period.
FEMA moves to deaccredit the levee.
Levee owner appeals fail during the deaccreditation
Accreditation is lost.
Families and businesses behind the levee may have to
buy flood insurance.
Recent Initiative
International Levee Handbook
Why prepare this handbook?
Increased flooding activity around the world that some attribute
to climate change has resulted in a number of high-profile
levee failures over the past decade.
Is there a benefit from a uniform international approach? Yes.
Participants: Germany, France, Ireland, Netherlands,
Started in 2009. First draft of the handbook is
complete. An international review team is meeting in
London next month.
USACE and DHS are the leads in US with private
sector support.
Outline is on the next page
International Levee Handbook Outline
Conceptual Frameworks
Form and Functions of Levees
O&M (USACE lead)
Condition Assessment of Levees
Emergency Preparedness and Management (DHS lead)
Site Characterization
Levee Design
The scope of the New Orleans levee repair and upgrade
program is enormous and holds lessons for the Nation.
Safety cant be stressed too much or too often.
The USACE Levee Periodic Inspection program can be
a powerful tool for helping levee owners understand the
condition of their structures.
There are other programs that can potentially interface
with levee programs (i.e., NFIP, RiskMAP, etc.).
Theres international recognition that we need more
focus on the state, condition, design, construction, and
O&M of levees.
For Further Information
Dr. Rob Mullins, PE, PMP, AICP
Vice President
Stantec Consulting