2023 Dam Safety Award Recipients

2023 Dam Safety Award Recipients


Photos are from ASDSO's Award Luncheon in Palm Springs, California on September 18, 2023.

Looking for a previous year's recipient? View the full history of ASDSO awards.

National Rehabilitation Project of the Year

This award recognizes developers of a unique remedial design that advances the state-of-the-art in the field of dam safety and exemplifies the high professional engineering standards that dam safety requires. The National Rehabilitation Project of the Year award is organized by the Annual Award Committee, and the Board of Directors approves the recipient. 

Isabella Dam.jpgIsabella Dam Safety Modification Project

  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Owners & Designers)
  • Flatiron, Dragados and Sukut JV (Contractors)

The Isabella Lake Dam, consisting of 185-foot and 100-foot high main and auxiliary dams, respectfully, had been under a 20-foot operating restriction since 2006 due to its Dam Safety Action Class (DSAC) 1 rating. The 568,075-acre-foot reservoir is owned and operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The primary risk driving failure modes included (1) overtopping failure of the main and auxiliary dams, (2) seepage through the main and auxiliary dams, and (3) failure of the auxiliary dam due to seismic loading, fault rupture, and foundation or embankment liquefaction. These potential failure modes posed an extreme hazard to the city of Bakersfield, the town of Lake Isabella, and surrounding communities.DSC02252.JPG

The existing infrastructure required significant modifications and adjustments to ensure public safety and avoid non-breach impacts. The scope undertaken by the USACE SPD Dam Safety Production Center included modification of both the main dam embankment and auxiliary dam embankment, in addition to the main dam control tower and service spillway, all while constructing a new emergency spillway. Over the past ten years, the team worked through in-house design, critical real estate acquisitions, relocations of other federal facilities impacted by construction, and environmental mitigation, and have nearly completed construction.

Over the last year, the team achieved three significant construction milestones. In the summer of 2022, the project reached completion of the auxiliary dam embankment and 16-foot crest raise. The work on the auxiliary dam included foundation excavation and placement of a multi-zoned full height earthen buttress and crest raise. In September of 2022, the project reached completion of the main dam embankment modifications and associated 16-foot crest raise. The main dam modifications included a full height multi zoned overlay and crest raise. Finally, in October 2022, the project reached full completion of the new 28-ft high labyrinth weir and completed the 3-million-yard excavation of the emergency spillway, marking dam safety modifications as substantially complete.
The project successfully achieved substantial completion on October 25, 2022, allowing the agency to initiate the process of lifting the pool restriction and lowering the formal risk rating from DSAC 1 to DSAC 4. The project is within budget, and the dam safety modifications allow filling of the reservoir to initiate in 2023 with predicted seasonal snow melt. These accomplishments were performed with over 2.6 million labor hours of effort with no significant accidents or injuries on the project

Top Photo: Isabella Dam
Bottom Photo: USACE and Flatiron, Dragados, and Sukut JV Representatives

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. 

Keith A. Ferguson, P.E., D.GE, D.WREDSC02254.JPG
HDR Engineering

Keith has over 45 years of professional experience specializing in dam safety, design, and construction. He holds Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in civil/geotechnical engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is a recognized expert in embankment and concrete dams; risk analysis; roller compacted concrete; soil mechanics, seepage, stability, and seismic response evaluations; and rock mechanics and foundation engineering for dams.

In addition to his impressive career, Keith has had an unmatched dedication to ASDSO. He has offered his skills and expertise to countless committees and task groups, including the Advisory Committee, Dam Failures and Incidents Committee, and Technical Journal Editorial Committee. Keith has also contributed to conference presentations and journal papers for decades. Recently Keith played an instrumental role in the 2022 and 2023 ASDSO Membership Appreciation Week webinars, helping to plan and moderate discussions with other industry leaders. Most importantly, Keith has been a role model for others in the industry and continues to share his knowledge with the industry generously.

Photo: Keith Ferguson (Left) and ASDSO President David Griffin (Right) 

Regional Dam Safety Awards

Regional Dam Safety Awards recognize smaller projects, dam owners, and other entities that have made an impact at a local, county, state, or regional level. While efforts may not be state-of-the-art or impact the industry nationally, recipients have made exemplary community contributions. The awards recognize collaboration, community impact, innovative funding, and cost-effectiveness. They also recognize social and environmental responsibility.
The Annual Awards Committee oversees the criteria for the Regional Dam Safety Awards. ASDSO Regional Representatives review submissions and select a recipient.



Arthur "AJ" DannyDSC02259.JPG
Franklin Regional Middle School (Murrysville, Pennsylvania)

AJ Danny is inspiring the next generation of engineers through his job as a 6th-grade teacher at Franklin Regional Middle School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. AJ strives to make learning about science, engineering, math, and technology fun for his students and has implemented dam safety into his curriculum. For example, his students have built small dam models as part of his class, and he has coordinated for industry professionals to visit his class.

In 2020-2021, his class was one of the winners of the second annual ASDSO Dam Model Competition. Despite the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, his class completed a model and presented it in the exhibit hall at the 2021 Dam Safety Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. With AJ's coaching, his students showed excellent poise in a crowd of nearly 1,000 dam safety professionals. Their passion for learning and pride in the model was evident. A new group of students under his leadership was selected as the winner of the 2022-2023 competition. 

Photo (Left to Right): Pennsylvania State Representative Kirk Kreider, AJ Danny, Northeast Regional Representative John Roche


City of FayettevilleDSC02260.JPG
Fayetteville, North Carolina

Mirror Lake Dam, owned by the City of Fayetteville, North Carolina, is an earthen embankment dam built in 1959 for recreational purposes. The dam impounds a 2-acre lake in a residential sub-division and is regulated as a small-size, high-hazard dam by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Dam Safety Program.

In 2016, Hurricane Matthew floodwaters over-topped the dam, resulting in significant erosion of the downstream slope of the embankment, including portions of a road running along the crest. As an emergency response, the lake was drained, and Mirror Lake Drive was closed until construction repairs could be completed.

In 2017, the City of Fayetteville retained Schnabel Engineering South, PC, to perform the engineering design and provide construction support to repair the dam and roadway. The planning, design, and construction phases of the project each involved multiple challenges, including navigating local, state, and federal requirements to secure repair funding; a tight schedule driven by the need to have the road back in service; the management and coordination of various permits, regulators, and other key stakeholders; and developing and implementing technically appropriate and cost-effective solutions around a myriad of site constraints.

Since the completion of the construction repairs, the City of Fayetteville has updated the dam's emergency action plan and has been extremely proactive in performing the maintenance, necessary repairs, and yearly inspections. The city performs continued monitoring of the lake level during hurricane season and storm events to prevent future flood damage. The city's efforts have extended the service life of the dam, reduced risk to downstream owners, and safeguarded access to services for the community residents.

Photo (Left to Right): Southeast Regional Representatives William McKercher and Toby Vinson, Meridee Romero-Graves (Schnabel), Johnny Dawkins (Mayor Pro Tem of Fayetteville), and ASDSO President David Griffin


City of Indianapolis, Department of Public WorksDSC02273.JPG
Indianapolis, Indiana

Eagle Creek Reservoir Dam, located on the northwest side of Indianapolis, Indiana, is a 75-foot high, 5,100-foot long earthen embankment with a center concrete gravity ogee spillway that impounds a 1,350-acre reservoir for flood control and water supply. The watershed is approximately 168 square miles. The concrete spillway consists of six mechanical Tainter gates, each having a width of 40 feet and a height of 30 feet. The dam is owned by the City of Indianapolis and operated by Citizens Energy Group. The dam was originally constructed in 1968.

The City of Indianapolis recognized in 2019 that due to the critical nature of the reservoir, the number of people and infrastructure downstream, and the age of the dam, a high degree of resiliency and reliability was needed.  Therefore, the City of Indianapolis took the initiative to augment the standard observation-based approach to dam safety with a risk-based approach by engaging a consultant team to perform a Potential Failure mode Analysis (PFMA) for the Eagle Creek Reservoir Dam. A final report summarizing the entire PFMA process, including recommendations, was finalized and provided to the City of Indianapolis in the Spring of 2022.

The decision to perform a PFMA was not made due to a mandate from a regulatory agency but out of a desire to better understand the dam’s vulnerabilities.  This step reinforces the City’s commitment to preserving the original flood control and water supply goals while reducing the risk to the downstream community and infrastructure.  Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the City stayed the course by utilizing creative and innovative communication methods. This led to impressive collaboration between owners, operators, inspectors, consulting engineers, and regulatory agencies.  The City of Indianapolis is in the process of acting on the recommendations included in the PFMA, with an eye toward extending the life of this critical structure for years to come.  With the documented investment in the dam and the initiative to complete the PFMA process without a mandate, the City of Indianapolis has proven to be an exemplary dam owner that considers this facility's impact on the community.

Photo: Shannon Killion (Left) and Midwest Regional Representative Mia Kannik (Right)



Irvine Ranch Water DistrictDSC02262.JPG
Irvine, California

Established in 1961, Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) serves high-quality drinking water to more than 600,000 people across central Orange County and recycled water for irrigation and landscaping. They operate five reservoirs instrumental to balancing water demands, holding winter precipitation and recycled water for summer use when supply is limited. 

What sets IRWD apart from most other dam owners is its proactive approach to using Risk-Informed Decision Making (RIDM) as a cornerstone of its dam safety program. One of the first dam owner programs in the nation, the program provides a rigorous, systematic, and thorough framework to improve safety decision quality and support. It combines scalability with communications, training, record keeping, continual improvements, audits, and assessments. It proactively provides IRWD information needed to understand dams' condition and safety, prioritize actions, and engage DSOD on regulations.

Aside from utilizing RIDM, IRWD is making positive strides towards enhancing other areas of the dam safety program, including utilizing InSAR technologies for monitoring, commissioning instrumentation pilot programs, migrating to cloud-based automatic data acquisition systems, and developing internal dam safety guidelines geared towards maintaining consistency and rigor.

IRWD has also developed and maintained an Emergency Action Plan for each dam, including pre-planning actions to ensure IRWD and first responders are prepared during an emergency and residents. Additionally, IRWD maintains clear communication pathways with the members of surrounding communities through a robust website and social media pages.

IRWD, with support from highly qualified consultants, has elevated its program to a level that can serve as a role model for other dam owners.

Photo (Left ot Right): West Regional Representatives Keith Conrad, Everett Taylor and Tim Gokie, Jacob Moeder (IRWD), Harry Cho (IRWD), Danielle Drake (IRWD), and West Regional Representative Terry Medley

Young Professionals of the Year

The Young Professional Award recognizes members under 40 working in the dam safety field who have made outstanding contributions to the Association, their respective organization, or the dam safety industry. Representatives from the Young Professional Interest Group review award nominations, and the ASDSO Board of Directors approves the recipient.

Aaron J. Fricke, P.E.DSC02280.JPG
Christopher B. Burke Engineering

Aaron "A.J." Fricke is a registered professional engineer in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. A.J. earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Purdue University in 2006. and is currently the assistant director of engineering at Christopher B. Burke Engineering.  

A.J. played a key role in changing the outcome of a bill affecting dam safety in Indiana. In 2022, Senate Bill 269, as originally proposed, would have resulted in the deregulation of an estimated 300 to 400 dams and inconsistencies with the national standards. A.J. was one of two engineers invited to meet with the sponsoring legislators, where he described the impacts of the bill. He testified publicly at the Senate Natural Resources Commission hearing, advocating for proposed amendments. As a result, the bill was amended to be more favorable for dam safety, and emergency action plans were required for all high hazard potential dams.

Additionally, A.J. has been active in the dam safety community and ASDSO for many years. A few highlights include serving as the chairperson of Indiana's state-level dam safety conference known as DIRT, which is facilitated through ASDSO. A.J. is also the chair in training for ASDSO's Media Outreach Committee and actively refined ASDSO's Communication Plan and Rapid Response Plan.

Photo: Young Professionals Interest Group Chair Cory Miyamoto (left) and AJ Fricke (Right)

Carmen Lepsch, P.E.DSC02278.JPG
Schnabel Engineering
Carmen joined Schnabel Engineering in 2018 after working as a project engineer for Gracon LLC for a year. Carmen earned her Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Colorado State University and is anticipating graduation from Villanova University in May 2023 with a master's in civil engineering, along with a dam engineering certificate. Carmen is a licensed Professional Engineer in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware.

Carmen mentored students from a Pittsburg-area middle school to help them prepare applications for the ASDSO Dam Model Competition. She met virtually with groups of students to discuss different features of dams and helped them develop project proposals to build a dam model. Her group was selected as a winner of the 2023-2024 Dam Model Competition, where they will present a Roller Compacted Concrete dam model.

Carmen actively works to encourage and build relationships between young and more experienced employees in her office and leads a company-wide technical resource focus group on collaboration and advancement of water resources. She has also participated in ASDSO's Young Professional Interest Group and the Dam Failures and Incidents Committee.

Photo: Young Professionals Interest Group Chair Cory Miyamoto (left) and Carmen Lepsch

Joseph J. Ellam Presidents Award 

This award is named in honor of ASDSO's first president, Joe Ellam of Pennsylvania. It is given annually by the current president to an individual who has made a significant impact during their term. 

Jeremy Franz, P.E.DSC02257.JPG
Colorado Division of Water Resources

A lot of work went on behind the scenes to prepare ASDSO's newest online resource, the Dam Safety Toolbox, for this summer's launch. While countless volunteers have contributed directly and indirectly to this project, Jeremy Franz was the volunteer who brought everything together and led the effort to turn an idea into reality.

Jeremy has played an active role in the development of the website from the beginning, serving both as the chair of the feasibility task force and leader of the subcommittee leading the development. He was heavily involved in every step of development to ensure the quality of the site and push the project toward completion. His efforts included recruiting and training project volunteers, meeting with the project's contractors, providing feedback on development, and keeping the numerous stakeholders updated and involved. 

Photo: Jeremy Franz (Left) and ASDSO President David Griffin (Right) 

Student Recognitions

2023-2024 Memorial Undergraduate Scholarship Learn More

Dam Model CompetitionLearn More

Student Paper Competition - Learn More