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Reclamation awards $20,000 for ideas to detect soil movement within earthen dams

Reclamation awards $20,000 for ideas to detect soil movement within earthen dams

Washington, D.C. — Reclamation selected five ideas as potential solutions for the Detection of Movement of Soils within Earthen Dams, Canals and Levees prize competition. Ted Grygar of San Diego and David Orlebeke of Ridgecrest, Calif., were selected as having the two top ideas. Each received $6,250.

This prize competition sought methods to detect the movement of material earlier than observable by currently used visual inspection and instrumentation methods. This could help prevent the loss of life, property and interruption of the service the infrastructure provides.

Grygar’s solution proposes using geophones and an impact hammer as an active seismic solution in a permanent installation. “The solution has options including refraction tomography and shear wave reflection depending on the geophones used,” Grygar said. “It may be best suited for smaller structures. Larger structures may need geophones or sources placed at depth.”

Orlebeke’s solution was based on unique magnetic sensor called superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) with extremely high sensitivity for low level magnetic fields with ability to detect their minimal changes. SQUID was used to register small changes of Earth’s magnetic field near underground areas with movement of soil (internal erosion). Combining obtained data with GPS coordinates permits mapping of internal erosion areas within earthen dams, canals, levees and their foundations.

Others selected to receive $2,500 each through this prize competition are Jean-Louis Briaud of College Station, Texas, for a robot-enabled underwater flowmeter; Cliff Gilbert of Southborough, Mass., for a brine water seepage tracer; and Michal Kardauskas of Billerica, Mass., for shear-wave reflection seismic imaging.

Reclamation collaborated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Colorado Dam Safety Program to design and judge this prize competition. To learn more about Reclamation’s Water Prize Competition Center, visit www.usbr.gov/research/challenges/index.html.