Jan 152010
 
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CSU’s Engineering Research Center has been awarded with a $1.7 million contract to devise and build a levee-testing facility that simulates hurricane-strength waves.

The facility will be capable of simulating erosion from the waves that likely contributed to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans in 2005.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the grant to Chris Thornton, director of the Engineering Research Center, to fund the construction of a levee-testing facility that will result in one of the world’s largest wave overtopping simulators.

“It’s a nice economic impact for the Fort Collins area and for CSU to get a contract that size,” said Wade Hapshe, public affairs officer for the Corps.

Thornton said in a press release that the CSU team would be responsible for generating guidelines and methods for determining the forces that levees undergo during extreme storm conditions.

The simulator will be located on CSU’s Foothills Campus, and, according to a press release, the waves will be generated from a 28-foot-tall control tower that releases water.

From there, the water will shoot down 40-foot long, six-foot wide “trays” that will simulate levees made of soil.

Researchers at the Army Corps of Engineers Coastal Engineering Laboratory in Vicksburg, Miss. are building the set of trays, which simulate conditions that are consistent with those in the Gulf region. The first sets of trays will be sent to Fort Collins to undergo testing in the spring and summer of 2010.

The Corps picked CSU for this project because of the unique abilities of the facility and the project team’s experience in performing full-scale hydraulic studies of the various impacts and characteristics of dams and erosion.

“It’s not going to be one-size-fits-all fix,” Thornton said. “While testing can be specific to a field location and account for unique soil and vegetation combinations, we need to develop design methodologies that allow us to use all the tools in our toolbox.”

Thornton said the team’s job will be to “crack the nut of physics” by developing a method that allows the effects from the forces generated on levees during wave overtopping to be incorporated into current design methods.

“I expect the results of this program to spark innovation and advancement in the erosion control industry,” Thornton said in the press release.

Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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