Judith DesHarnais, Chief of Programs & Project Management at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, details her flood mitigation work in North Dakota and Minnesota.
In the late 20th century, flooding in the Grand Forks area of Minnesota and North Dakota caused millions of dollars worth of property damage. After the Red River flood of 1997, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began constructing new methods of flood prevention in the area. Judith DesHarnais, Chief of Programs & Project Management at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, was involved in developing these strategies, and she’s up for a Samuel J. Heyman career achievement award for her work. “Because so many houses were flooded up to the eaves, there was a willingness in the community to relocate some of those people that were devastated the worst. We had an opportunity to turn one area in Grand Forks into a park and another area in East Grand Forks into a campground. That allowed the levees to be set back further from the river, where the soils could hold up the levees better so that they wouldn’t tend to have failure issues and also made room for the river,” said DesHarnais. “By having a wider river, [the levee] doesn’t have to go as high. That made for a better situation for everybody in that community and they very much enjoy the parks and the beautiful opportunity to go along the river.”