WASHINGTON, D.C. — Merrick & Company of Aurora, Colo., is a finalist in the American Council of Engineering Companies’ 45th annual Engineering Excellence Awards competition for its role in the Rainwater Basin Conservation Project, a 17,677-square-mile initiative to protect critical wildlife habitat in Nebraska and Kansas.

The multi-agency Rainwater Basin Project addresses declining habitat for migratory waterfowl in the area by restoring and permanently protecting 37,000 acres of high-quality wetlands, and 25,000 acres of associated uplands. To accurately delineate the low-relief wetland watersheds across such a vast area, Merrick & Company is utilizing advanced Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology to create a digital elevation model that will aid natural resources planning and management efforts.

The LiDAR-derived data will help prioritize habitat protection and restoration activities, including planning and designing terraces, buffers along streams, and restoration of streams. Resource managers also will use the data to model the effects of dam breaches on environmentally sensitive areas.

The project is among 161 engineering projects from throughout the nation recognized by ACEC as preeminent engineering achievements for 2010. Judging for the Engineering Excellence Awards — known as the “Academy Awards of the engineering industry” — took place in February, conducted by a panel of more than 30 engineers, architects, government representatives, media members, and academics. Criteria for awards include uniqueness and originality, technical, social and economic value, complexity, and success of the projects in meeting goals.

All winners, including 16 Honor Awards, eight Grand Awards and the “Grand Conceptor Award” for best overall engineering achievement, will be recognized at the Engineering Excellence Awards Gala, to be held Friday, April 1, 2011, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C.