WASHINGTON, D.C. — Freese and Nichols Inc. of Dallas is a finalist in the American Council of Engineering Companies’ 45th annual Engineering Excellence Awards competition for the University Channel Restoration Project in Garland, Texas.

What was once an eroding eyesore is now an attractive 3,700-foot long landscaped waterway thanks to a creative collaboration of engineers and adjacent property owners. The cost-effective strategy stabilized the stream bottom and vertical banks using interlocking concrete blocks and other materials that mimic the characteristics of natural hard armoring.

By constructing these improvements within the existing narrow channel, the project team saved the city of Garland nearly $600,000 in environmental mitigation costs and eliminated the need to purchase property from adjacent residents. Property owners were closely involved throughout the project, providing input on the selection of construction materials and plantings.

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.