Though the new calendar year has arrived—just to recap an important achievement in 2014—at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Risk Management Center (RMC) in Denver, Colorado, the Louisville Risk Cadre was awarded the first ever Cadre-of-the-Year Award. Rick Schultz, RMC engineer, who attended the ceremony in Denver said, “Senior RMC management had many great things to say about the outstanding performance of the Louisville District group and all that the cadre has accomplished in the past year.”
So what is a risk cadre and what has the Louisville risk cadre been doing this last year that earned them such high praise?
After Hurricane Katrina, USACE made an effort to outreach and make risk-informed decisions ensuring that projects providing the most risk benefit for the American public would be assessed and prioritized to receive funds.
The RMC was formed to lead and direct this effort for USACE, by largely using risk analysis methods used by the Bureau of Reclamation. Risk is determined by the presence of a potential hazard, the probability of the hazard to lead to a breach, and the consequences that might occur to the downstream population at risk if a breach occurs. For example, a dam with many potential hazards but with zero population downstream might be considered a low risk, while a dam with few to no hazards might be considered a high risk if it is immediately upstream of a city. A classification system of dams and levees assisted RMC personnel to determine how to prioritize efforts as they began to assist local USACE districts with assessing the structures that posed the greatest risk to the public.
The RMC found themselves tasked with greater responsibilities and needed assistance from districts to evaluate these risks. In 2011, the Louisville District formed a small cadre to provide support for this effort. Over the past three and a half years, the group has been extremely successful at assessing the risks of high hazard dams and levees across the nation.
The Louisville District cadres have been involved all the way back to the beginning of the RMC in the development of the risk methodology used today to evaluate dams in the USACE portfolio. A Memorandum of Agreement was drafted between the Louisville District cadre and the RMC establishing the baseline cadre teams. These base teams generally consist of a project manager, a geotechnical engineer who evaluates the integrity of the embankment and the potential for internal erosion failure modes, an economist who evaluates the potential downstream consequences if breach were to occur, a hydrologist/hydraulic engineer who determines the reoccurrence frequency and duration of various pool loadings at the structure and the extent of flooding from a breach, a geologist who determines the potential geologic hazards that could threaten the integrity of the structure and a structural engineer who evaluates the design and integrity of structural components.
The Louisville District has been granted flexibility to operate with greater freedom to focus and schedule multiple risk assessments simultaneously. The Louisville team has approximately 25 members both full and part time, actively working on five or more risk assessments at any given time. This flexibility and commitment of the district cadres have enabled them to complete more risk assessment than any other risk cadre under contract with the RMC.
“When a tough or difficult project needs to be accomplished, the RMC calls Louisville. The team performing risk work has a great reputation.” according to said Steve Durrett, former deputy district engineer.
The first ever Cadre-of-the-Year Award —which was received by the Louisville District team—is a watershed moment for the team, district, division and nationally.
Risk Cadre Team members
Bonnie Jennings, Program Manager
Ed Stowasser (LRH)
Shelley Tule (LRE)
Brian D. Smith