This week, New York Times readers have the opportunity to interact with Colonel John R. Boulé II in a sort of comment box Q&A. Join the discussion or just peruse the comment section if you’re curious about Mr. Boulé, his command of the New York District of the Army Corps of Engineers or USACE’s various projects in the New York area.
That’s right: concrete used as the building material for boats. It all happened in June when the American Society of Civil Engineers hosted its 22nd Annual National Concrete Canoe Competition. Though rain, thunder, and lightening were present, the competition went on at Lake Nicol in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Twenty-two top engineering colleges and universities entered the event, but the University of California, Berkeley pulled off the win.
The competition is for civil engineering students and provides them with a real-world application of the engineering principles they learn in the classroom. The competition also builds teamwork and project management skills and challenges the students’ knowledge, creativity, and stamina. Finally, the star of the show, the concrete itself, is proven as a useful and versatile building material.
In order to go to the competition, teams must qualify in one of the 18 conference competitions held around the country. Qualifying teams gain academic scholarships totaling $9,000. The winners of the national competitions are holders of the America’s Cup of Civil Engineering. This year, the competition changed a bit when organizers told teams they could only build hulls to the specifications and dimensions in the rule book. Working within limitations challenged students to think creatively on ways they could gain an advantage over other schools.
In their fifth win in the competition’s 22-year history, UC Berkeley took home the cup for the Bear Area, a 230-pound, 20-foot-long canoe. It was Berkeley’s first championship since 1992. The canoes that came the closest to overtaking the Bear Area were built by École de Technologie Supérieure in Montréal, Canada, and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. ETS’s Vintage, weighing in at 190 pounds and 20 feet in length, came in second place. Following in third was Cal Poly’s 246-pound, 20-foot-long canoe, also christened the Vintage.
Photo: UC Berkeley’s entry in ASCE’s 21st Annual National Concrete Canoe Competition, Vocal, Photographer: Paul A. Hernandez
While flooding in California’s Central Valley is “the next big disaster waiting to happen,” water-related infrastructure issues confront almost every community across the country, according to engineers at the University of Maryland’s Clark School of Engineering in separate reports to California officials and in the journal Science. An independent review panel chaired by Clark School Research Professor of Civil Engineering Gerald E. Galloway said the area between the Sacramento and San Joaquin river floodplains faces significant risk of floods that could lead to extensive loss of life and billions of dollars in damages. The panel’s report, “A California Challenge: Flooding in the Central Valley,” was commissioned by California’s Department of Water Resources.The panel pointed out that many of the area’s levees, constructed over the past 150 years to protect communities and property in the Central Valley, were poorly built or placed on inadequate foundations. Climate change may increase the likelihood of floods and their resulting destruction. The panel recommends that state and local officials take swift action to reduce the risk to people and the environment.The comprehensive flood-risk abatement strategy the panel recommends focuses on land-use planning and integration with other basin water management activities.
“The challenges that California faces are widespread across the nation,” Galloway says. “The recent failure of a levee in a Nevada irrigation canal points out growing infrastructure problems.”
Another civil engineering researcher from the Clark School, Dr. Lewis “Ed” Link, also served on the California panel.
“I believe the State of California is taking a very enlightened approach to difficult issues,” Link states. “Supporting this study is a good example, as is their examination of risk for the entire Central Valley. They are looking strategically at measures that can create long-term solutions, a model for others to follow.”
Galloway is also co-author of an article in the January 18, 2008 issue of Science-“Aging Infrastructure and Ecosystem Restoration”-which calls for the targeted decommissioning of deteriorated and obsolete infrastructure in order to support the restoration of degraded ecosystems.
“As we move forward with infrastructure enhancement, we must consider how, in the process of carrying out these activities, we can restore and enhance the natural and beneficial functions of the floodplain, which can at the same time reduce flood losses,” Galloway explains.
Link and Galloway were prominent figures in the review of the levee system around New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area.
Link served as director of the federal government’s Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, which evaluated the hurricane protection system around New Orleans. Galloway is a former brigadier general with the Army Corps of Engineers and has been part of the State of Louisiana review team looking at long-term plans for restoration of the Gulf Coast.