2020 Dam Safety Award Recipients

(click to go directly to award)
National Award of Merit
National Rehabilitation Project of the Year
Regional Awards of Merit
Media Outreach Award
Young Professional of the Year
Student Paper Competition Winners
Memorial Undergraduate Scholarship Recipient

View History of All ASDSO awards


National Award of Merit

Chosen by the ASDSO Board of Directors, this award honors an individual or entity contributing to dam safety on a national level.

2020 Recipient:
Mark Baker, P.E.
Principal, DamCrest Consulting
Senior Advisor, Dam & Levee Safety. HDR, Inc.

Mark’s contributions, both to ASDSO and the dam safety community at large, have led to a better understanding of the lessons to be learned from dam failures and incidents. Mark Baker is a professional civil engineer who has been an industry leader in dam failures for the last ten years. Some of Mark’s many notable accomplishments include serving as founder and co-chair of the ASDSO Dam Failure and Incidents Committee, leading the development of the Dam Failure Investigation Guide, and leading the recent Spencer Dam Failure Investigation, the first of its kind for ASDSO. 


National Rehabilitation Project of the Year

This award recognizes a unique remedial design, for a project of any size, that advances the state-of-the-art in the field of dam safety and exemplifies the professional engineering and construction standards that dam safety requires.

2020 Recipient:
Stampede Dam - Safety of Dams Modification Project

  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Owner)
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Technical Service Center (Designer)
  • Reinforced Earth Company (Designer)
  • NW Construction (Contractor)

The modification of Stampede Dam is a stellar example of engineering innovation, risk reduction, and collaboration between multiple agencies. 

Stampede Dam is a zoned earthen dam, owned and operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.  Constructed as part of the Washoe Project in 1970, Stampede Dam is a key structure in the Truckee River system that provides water for irrigation, municipal, industrial, and environmental uses.  

During a comprehensive review in the early 2000s and through various flood routing studies and modeling, Reclamation determined that Stampede Dam could experience more inflow into the reservoir than the dam was capable of releasing through the spillway and outlet works. Based on the probability of the overtopping failure mode, coupled with the consequences to downstream populations, Reclamation determined the dam posed an unacceptable risk to the public.

To mitigate the risk, Reclamation raised the crest of Stampede Dam 11.5 feet using a mechanically stabilized earth or “MSE” wall and constructed a headwall in the spillway control structure to maintain existing release characteristics. 

Using an MSE wall to raise an earthen dam is a relatively unique and innovative solution.  Due to the vertical nature of an MSE wall, Reclamation found significant savings in the total amount of material required to perform the dam raise, compared to the more conventional methods of embankment raising, while reducing the possibility of overtopping to highly unlikely. 

Also of note was the collaborative development of the project, including outreach to the local public, local and federal governments, and permitting agencies to minimize public impacts, and the use of “waste” material from the original dam construction to reduce overall costs and negative environmental impacts. 


Regional Awards of Merit

The Regional Awards of Merit are given to individuals, companies, organizations, municipalities, or other entities working in the dam safety field that have made outstanding contributions to dam safety within each ASDSO Region.

2020 Northeast Regional Award:
Chester County Water Resources Authority

Chester County, Pennsylvania

The Chester County Water Resources Authority provides sound water science, information, and planning resources to support communities throughout Chester County, Pennsylvania. The Authority also provides flood protection in the Brandywine Creek watershed through the operation of four regional flood control dams and one regional water supply reservoir.  

The Chester County Water Resources Authority is proactive in addressing maintenance needs at its facilities and performs the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Dam Safety required inspections and report updates in full compliance and on time. The Authority is systematic in monitoring the health of its dams through its instrumentation program and is vigilant and prepared should an emergency arise at any one of its facilities.

It is also a leader in making its dams safe for the public and maintenance staff and has made deliberate modifications to its dams to minimize hazards. 


2020 Southeast Regional Award:
South Carolina DHEC Dams and Reservoirs Safety Program

Over the past five years, the South Carolina DHEC Dams and Reservoirs Safety Program has faced many challenges, including major storms.  In this time, the program has grown to become more responsive to emergencies and developed greater outreach to dam owners.  Emergency response has been improved through the implementation of ArcGIS Collector to improve inspection times; field training of more than 80 DHEC staff to be able to perform emergency dam assessments; and development and posting of on-line inundation mapping for all dams in the state.  To improve outreach with its owners, the program works with dam owners to develop EAPs for their dams. They are developing a series of webinars for dam owners and publishing an annual newsletter for them.


2020 Midwest Regional Award:
Iowa Department of Natural Resources River Trails Program

The Iowa DNR water trails program has been proactive in the removal, modification, portage construction, and signage for low head dams in Iowa since 2008. The program has developed an inventory of low head dams in the state and used cost share funds to support feasibility studies, designs, or construction for 37 separate structures around the state. To date, 25 projects are complete, and two projects are under construction. Some of these projects involved warning sign design and installation, and others were complete removals or involved converting a dam to rapids.

Many of these low head dams had drownings or near drownings associated with them.  Now, many are economic drivers for the small communities and bring in recreational users to the river.


2020 West Regional Award:
Racquel Rancier
Policy Manager, Oregon Water Resources Department

Racquel Rancier is a dedicated policy manager with the Oregon Water Resources Department. Oregon dam safety staff struggled with the need for law based on the Model Dam Safety Program until Racquel led all efforts to propose an updated law. She actively solicited the best policy and technical input possible and worked with stakeholders to draft most of what was to become HB 2085 for Oregon’s legislative counsel. 

Once approved by the governor’s office, the bill went to the legislature. Racquel testified in support of the bill and worked with state representatives, senators, and a dam owner on changes. The bill passed with near unanimous support and was signed by the governor into law. During this process, she received thanks from members of both parties on the public record.


Media Outreach Award

The Media Outreach Award recognizes and celebrates outstanding contributions made by media outlets and journalists whose work on dam safety issues has enhanced public understanding of the impact dams have on society, the role they play as key components of public infrastructure, ramifications of dam safety incidents or other noteworthy contributions to dam safety.

2020 Recipients:
David A. Lieb, Michael Casey, and Michelle Minkoff
Associated Press

Reporters David Lieb, Michael Casey, and Michelle Minkoff set a high standard for effective reporting on dam safety when they published their report “At least 1,680 dams across the US pose potential risk.”

The report, published in November 2019 by the Associated Press, resulted from more than two years investigating dam safety. The reporters gathered information on each state's performance through interviews with program staff, reports obtained under state open record laws, and federal data. The reporters were also in frequent contact with ASDSO staff to better understand the collected data, the differences between states, and national trends.

As part of the roll-out, the reporters worked with other reporters around the nation to develop state and local-level stories. More than 50 follow-up articles were published. While these articles were not always to the same level as the original report, they did help to increase local interest in the issue. 

The report also had a legislative impact on U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, calling on Congress to "immediately begin addressing aging dam infrastructure in New York and across the country” and fund the Rehabilitation of High-Hazard Potential Dam Grant Program fully.


Young Professional of the Year

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) Young Professional Award recognizes professionals under 40 years of age working in the dam safety field that have made outstanding contributions to the Association, their respective organization, and/or the dam safety industry in general.

2020 Recipient:
Nathaniel Gee, P.E.

Regional Engineer, Interior Region 8-Lower Colorado Basin

Nathaniel Gee is a professional civil engineer and currently serves as the regional engineer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Lower Colorado Region. He oversees the Dam Safety and Examination of Existing Structures programs that help protect and maintain elements of Reclamation’s aging infrastructure. 

Nathaniel’s contributions to ASDSO are numerous and varied. He is an active member of the ASDSO Dam Failures and Incidents Committee and several of its subcommittees with Mark Baker, the long-time committee chair, calling him "one of the most enthusiastic and hard-working members.”  Other contributions include serving on the conference program committee for the annual Dam Safety conference, contributing an article to the Journal of Dam Safety, and instructing an ASDSO webinar. 

He is also an active contributor to the Young Professional Interest Group. At last year’s annual conference in Orlando, Nathaniel organized and moderated a technical session geared towards young professionals.  The session’s purpose was to help young professionals make goals and plan their career paths based on the valuable insights of those who have walked this road before them.


Student Paper Competition Winners

Learn more about the Student Paper Competition in the student and faculty resource section


Memorial Undergraduate Scholarship Recipient

Learn more about the Memorial Undergraduate Scholarship in the student and faculty resource section

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