WEST Consultants, Inc. specializes in advanced water resources investigations, working toward sustainable solutions that balance the needs of the users with those of the environment.

News & Events

In recognition of the need to improve flooding risk assessment for dam and levee breach evaluations, Brent Travis, Ph.D., P.E.; Gyan Basyal; and Bryan Wahlin, Ph.D., P.E., of WEST, developed new software that directly incorporates probabilistic aspects of all major components consistent with Monte-Carlo type simulations. The resulting product, named SimRAS, is a multipurpose GUI based HEC-RAS simulation tool, written in Python language utilizing reliable and well tested libraries. In addition to dam and levee break studies, SimRAS can also be used for floodplain delineation and uncertainty analysis, and provides sophisticated post-processing including statistical analyses and direct floodplain mapping. As a parallel project to SimRAS, a simplified closed form mathematical model was also developed from first principles in order to predict 2-dimensional floodwave propagation due to levee breaks, thus allowing rapid risk assessment of flooding at any point of interest in the floodplain. As a further test of their capabilities, both the SimRAS and the simplified model were then used to assess hazard risk at an area of interest within the overflow floodplain of a major levee. These results were discussed and practical guidelines suggested for how best to utilize both methods for hazard risk assessment due to levee failure. Dr. Travis presented at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in Washington, D.C., December 10-14, 2018 with an iPoster and an eLightning talk.

Dr. David C. Curtis, F.EWRI, WEST Senior Vice President, presented a paper coauthored by himself and Dr. Luciana Kindl Da Cunha, WEST Project Manager, at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in Washington, D.C., in December. The paper, A Framework for Linking the NWS National Water Model with the US Army Corps of Engineers HEC-HMS Model Parameters, discussed an innovative approach that bridges the gap between HMS event-based modeling and continuous soil moisture accounting approaches. HEC HMS (HMS), developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), is one of the most widely used hydrologic modeling programs in the world. Increasingly, HMS is being applied to forecast operations both by the USACE and outside agencies. Historical hydrologic losses were developed for reservoirs in the Ft. Worth District of the USACE. Relationships between HMS initial and continuous loss parameters and soil column moisture conditions in upstream catchments modeled by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) were drawn. A spreadsheet tool was developed that incorporates the NASA soil moisture data, continuously updated and publicly available online, to provide improved estimates of initial and continuous loss parameters for HMS in a real-time river forecast environment. Utilizing this approach, two diverse models from the NWS and USACE can be operationally linked in near-real time to improve reservoir operations.

David C. Curtis, Ph.D., F.EWRI, WEST Senior Vice President, serves on the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Water Resources Committee. Dr. Curtis and other members from AMS recently co-authored a chapter, “Hydroclimatic Extremes as Challenges for the Water Management Community: Lessons from Oroville Dam and Hurricane Harvey,” that was published in the December 2018 issue of the Bulletin of the AMS (BAMS). This volume of BAMS was titled Explaining Extreme Events of 2017: From a Climate Perspective and was featured at a press conference at the AGU Fall Meeting in Washington D.C. on December 10th, as well as presented in a poster session at the AGU conference. The article was also mentioned on ABC News, InsideClimate News, and other major media outlets. This BAMS special report can be accessed here:

In October, WEST was awarded an Indefinite Delivery Architect-Engineer Contract in the amount of $8 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Tulsa District for Engineering, Design, Modeling, and Manual Development Services within the USACE, Southwestern Division.  The Southwestern Division includes portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas. The contract includes development of Water Control Manuals and Drought Contingency Plans. Tasks may include the development of hydrologic and hydraulic computer models; development of rating curves, inundation maps, hydrologic data for period-of-record, Probable Maximum Precipitation (PMP), Probable Maximum Flood (PMF), and depth-area-duration curves; analysis and/or design of hydraulic structures related to outlet works, spillways, or other drainage structures; and addressing Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirements. The contract also includes design, customization, troubleshooting, and documentation of software to develop solutions for integrating legacy USACE water management decision support applications with modern USACE information systems, including Corps Water Management System (CWMS), and for continued development, updating, and modernizing utility programs to be used for hydrologic and hydraulic analysis, such as enhancements to MetVue and HMS to determine design storm critical size, centering, and orientation.

At the U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage (USCID www.uscid.org) held in Mesa, AZ from October 15-19, 2018, Dr. Jeffrey B. Bradley, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, the founder of WEST, was honored with USCID’s Service to the Profession Award.  This Award is made annually to recognize service to the irrigation, drainage, flood control, or water resources management profession by an individual, organization, or agency which has made meritorious contributions to the advancement, understanding, or conduct of irrigation, drainage, flood control, water management, or any combination thereof. The award can be made to an individual, group of individuals, organization, or agency for notable performance, long years of distinguished service, or specific actions that have served to advance the study or implementation of irrigation, drainage, flood control or water resources management.

In December Jerry W. Webb, P.E., D.WRE, a registered professional in the state of Tennessee, joined the WEST team after more than 44 years of working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE’s) Memphis District, Huntington District, and Headquarters offices, where he served as Principal Hydrologic and Hydraulic Engineer. He was Chief of the Water Resources Engineering Branch in the Huntington District, where he was a key member of the Dam Safety Committee and was responsible for water management activities associated with thirty-five reservoirs and nine navigation locks and dams. As the Hydrology, Hydraulics, and Coastal Community of Practice (HH&C CoP) Leader at the USACE Headquarters in Washington D.C., his duties encompassed all aspects of hydrologic, hydraulic, and coastal engineering. In this position, he was responsible for technical policy concerning design, construction, and maintenance of dams and appurtenant structures. He also served as the Chairman of the Columbia River Treaty’s Permanent Engineering Board Engineering Committee, for which he was responsible for coordinating water control operations in accordance with the Treaty.
Mr. Webb served as an engineering officer for more than 23 years in the Tennessee and West Virginia Air National Guard and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. He also served as the Senior Advisor to Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR). While in this position supporting Iraq reconstruction, he oversaw more than 12,000 personnel operating the world’s oldest water resources system. In addition, he was the interim Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Environment during January-February 2004.
He served several years as the Hydraulics Committee chair and two terms as a U.S. Society of Dams (USSD) Board member. He was a USACE representative for the Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI) and the Hydrology and Sedimentation national subcommittees. He served two terms as a Board member and is Past-President (2014) with the AAWRE and acted as a Department of Defense (DOD) representative to the National Dam Safety Review Board.

In November, Mike Gerlach, P.E., Project Manager at WEST, was elected to the position of Central Region Representative of the Arizona Floodplain Management Association (AFMA).  AFMA is a non-commercial, non-profit organization formed in 1982 as the first chapter of the Association of State Floodplain Managers.  AFMA’s mission is to provide an educational forum for technical and regulatory training relative to management of Arizona’s floodplains.  As the Central Region Representative, Mr. Gerlach’s responsibility will be to serve as a liaison between the Board of Directors and the members in the Central Region (Gila, La Paz, Maricopa, Pinal, and Yuma counties).  In this capacity, Mike will serve as a member of the conference committee for conferences in the Central Region and gather information on current issues and challenges that floodplain managers in the Central Region are encountering.  That information will be used to program educational and technical training opportunities for the membership that address those issues and challenges.

Martin J. Teal, P.E., P.H., D.WRE, F.ASCE, WEST Senior Vice President, will be presenting a short course at the 10th International Perspective on Water Resources and the Environment Conference, held in Cartagena, Colombia December 4-7, 2018. The course is intended for professionals with limited or no knowledge of HEC-RAS. HEC-RAS (River Analysis System) is a one-dimensional (1D) and two-dimensional (2D) hydraulic model produced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is freely available, and is used world-wide to generate water surface profiles and to compute hydraulic variables in fluvial systems.

WEST was selected to complete dam failure inundation studies related to new California state requirements for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Helix Water District, the Santa Fe Irrigation District, the County of Santa Barbara, and others. Newly enacted California state law that became effective in July of 2017 requires dam owners to prepare an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for their dams and critical appurtenant structures with deadlines depending on the hazard classification of the dam.  Inundation maps will form part of the new EAPs but these must be reviewed and approved by the California Division of Safety of Dams prior to submittal of revised EAPs.  WEST is currently working with multiple dam owners to meet the new state requirements and is preparing dam breach inundation studies and revised EAPs.

Brian Wahlin, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, manager of WEST’s Tempe, AZ office, led a committee of global canal automation experts tasked with developing the Canal Automation for Irrigation Systems Manual 131 for the American Society of Civil Engineers. Bert Clemmens, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, also of WEST’s Tempe office, authored several chapters of the manual. The manual documents new technological progress in canal automation, as well as practical guidance on more routine aspects of canal automation. “Canal Automation for Irrigation Systems” edited by Brian Wahlin, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE and Darell Zimbelman, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE is available on the ASCE website. A book review published in the Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, 2018, 144(4) described the work, “Overall, this is an excellent reference book on irrigation canal automation, and the techniques presented by this manuscript can potentially be expanded for the automation of canals with broader uses and applications such as flood control, water quality enhancement (e.g., stormwater treatment areas), and navigation. The book is recommended to practicing hydraulic/electronic engineers involved with water control systems, as a design guideline. The authors of this MOP have a strong background in this subject and have presented the material in a logical manner, still keeping the presented information engaging and relevant.”

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