Reston, Va. — Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which caused widespread devastation in the greater New Orleans area, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed and constructed a nearly two-mile-long, 26-foot-high Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System — the largest surge barrier of its kind in the world — to protect some of Southeast Louisiana’s most vulnerable areas from future storm surges. In recognition of this achievement, the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Barrier was honored with the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) 2014 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) award.

Work began on this historic project in May 2009. To meet the Corps of Engineers’ aggressive goal of achieving 100-year-level risk reduction by June 2011, the project team designed and constructed the surge barrier simultaneously. This was accomplished by implementing advanced design and construction techniques and a management approach that streamlined project delivery and effectively addressed the numerous challenges associated with the project’s massive scale.

Designed to minimize environmental impacts and enable flexibility, the surge barrier boasts 1,271 vertical piles, 647 steel batter piles, 2,514 closure piles, a 150-foot-wide sector gate, a 150-foot-wide bypass gate, a 56-foot-wide lift gate, and two tie-in T-walls. The project was completed in May 2011 — just two years after physical construction began.        

“Engineering a project of this magnitude is an amazing feat, given its complexity and sheer size,” said Randall (Randy) S. Over, P.E., F.ASCE, president of ASCE. “Not only has this surge barrier helped restore hope in a community decimated by Hurricane Katrina, but as the barrier proved during Hurricane Isaac which hit Southeast Louisiana in August 2012, it will also provide formidable protection from future storm surges.”   

The project team of The Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Barrier includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; CB&I; Eustis Engineering Services, LLC; INCA-Gerwick JV; Linfield; Hunter & Junius, Inc.; Waldemar S. Nelson and Company, Inc.; and AECOM/ENSR.

Established in 1960, the OCEA program recognizes projects from around the world for their contribution to the well-being of people and communities, their resourcefulness in planning and design challenges, and their innovative use of materials and techniques.

The other four finalists for the 2014 award were:

• Huey P. Long Bridge Widening Project, Jefferson Parish, La.

• I-15 Corridor Expansion Project, Utah County, Utah     

• Taizhou Bridge, Jiangsu Province, China

• Tom Lantos Tunnels at Devil’s Slide, San Mateo County, Calif.

In addition, ASCE recognized the Mt. Carberry Landfill Leachate Siphon Project in Berlin, N.H., with a Special Award for Innovation and Resourcefulness in a Noteworthy Small Project.

Past OCEA winners include:

• The Alvarado Water Treatment Plant Ozone Upgrade and Expansion Project, San Diego, Calif.

• China’s Sutong Bridge, Nantong City, Jiangsu Province, China

• The Woodrow Wilson Bridge outside Washington, D.C.

• The Golden Gate Bridge Seismic Retrofit in San Francisco