USACE Update to Levee Design Far Exceeds Levees

Mike Shiflett

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is targeting late 2015 for an update to the Engineering Manual (EM) for Design and Construction of Levees, EM 1110-2-1913, that will be available to the public. USACE anticipates that, within a couple of years, sufficient user comment will have been collected to require an additional update.

An extremely important and significant alteration to the USACE engineering design approach will be presented and will have impact far beyond this manual and levees. USACE has historically developed EMs in a prescriptive manner; that is, a step-by-step process that leads to a conclusion, answer, or final decision and design. The updated EM will be a shift toward critical thinking by implementing a risk-based analysis. This shift should enable engineers to use risk-based rationale to form a logical, site-specific design instead of a “one size fits all” approach that disregards project location, potential risks, and safety of the public. This approach will require some getting used to not only by USACE, but also by design engineers and the general public.

Freese and Nichols is encouraged by the change from a prescriptive approach to a more critical thinking approach in the revised EM by USACE, as we believe it will provide another avenue for design engineers to develop project results better tailored for owner’s specific situations. If you would like to discuss the EM update further, contact Mike Shiflett, P.E., Senior Geotechnical Consultant.