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Engineering solutions for DFW’s biggest challenges

Chelsea Jones | 8/29/2013, 6:28 p.m.
Sirak Bahta, a city engineer, explains to Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Kula how the three new pumps work. Together they can pump 375,000 gallons per minute out of West Dallas neighborhoods – the equivalent of being able to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in less than two minutes. Total Flood Control System pumping capacity for all of the city’s pumping stations is the equivalent of filling up White Rock Lake from scratch in a single day. USACOE

Water conservation, environmental safety and restoration, as well as education in science, technology, engineering and math, have been at the top of the state’s list of concerns in regard to the immediate and distant future of Texas. Behind the scenes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been active in engineering and implementing solutions to meet these challenges.

The corps is not a recruiting division. Its mission is to “deliver vital public and military engineering services; partnering in peace and war to strengthen our nation’s security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters,” according to representatives from its headquarters.

Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Kula presented an overview presentation of the diverse activities performed by the corps’ Forth Worth District during an update briefing on Aug. 14 at the Earl Cabell Federal Building.

As the commanding general of the corps’ Southwestern Division, Kula began his presentation by providing a brief summary of the corps’ mission to implement engineering, construction and environmental restoration services for various civil and military projects. The corps’ primary duty, however, is to develop and maintain the nation’s water resources. Additional services include assisting communities with emergency operations and recovery, supplying community outreach and recreation opportunities, and managing federal real estate.

Kula went on to explain that the corps stores 20 percent of Texas’ total surface water, which serves as drinking water for 35 percent of Texas’ population. He commented that the district is working with water providers within the Dallas/Forth Worth area to enforce water conservation rules due to Texas’ current drought. So far, residents have been instructed to water their yards only once each week.

Much of Kula’s presentation dealt with the district’s efforts to maintain water infrastructure development in order to stimulate economic growth. The district is currently conducting three studies that will measure the long-term reliability and sustainability of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the Southwestern Division Municipal and Industrial Water Supply program, and the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River System in promoting Texas’ maritime commerce.

In addition, the district is deciding whether or not to build two new reservoirs – Lake Ralph Hall and Lake Bois d’Arc – and the DWU/TWD pipeline in response to statistical predictions that Texas’ population will double primarily in major cities within the next 50 to 60 years. The district is also developing techniques that will remove sedimentation from Lake Grapevine and Lake Lavon in order to increase their water-storage capacities.

Furthermore, Kula mentioned that the district is performing a risk-assessment analysis on the Lewisville Dam, which has been found to be at a risk of failure due to seepage through its foundation. The district has already implemented risk reduction measures that will support the dam until the district is able to fund more permanent fixes.

Other district activities include collaboration with the city of Dallas on the Dallas Floodway Project, and the Texas Department of Transportation on the Central City Project, to ensure that the city has safe floodway systems.

Being the largest provider of water recreation areas in the nation, the corps has seen a number of drownings. Kula stated that children who drown while swimming mainly do so because their parents aren’t supervising them, and that males 18 to 35 are the most at-risk for drowning.