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Sac State students tour levee upgrade project

Posted On : August 4th, 2010

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Aug. 4, 2010) - With hard hats, safety glasses and reflective vests in hand, engineering students and teachers from California State University - Sacramento went from the classroom to the field. This was thanks in part to a recent CSUS graduate, Joshua Wagner, who wanted to provide current students the opportunity to see what real-world engineering is all about.

Wagner, quality assurance representative on the American River Common Features project, and other engineers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District led an on-site visit for CSUS students and teachers of construction at the Guy West Bridge here July 31.

Guy West Bridge is a pedestrian bridge, built to scale of the Golden Gate Bridge, which spans the American River. The bridge connects the campus of CSUS and the Sacramento neighborhood Campus Commons. Students were shown all aspects of the project, from the slurry mixing site to the excavation site on the side of the bridge, and the quality assurance lab.

The field trip was organized by Wagner, who wanted to provide students an opportunity to see a Corps project up close.

"The goal was to get aspiring engineering and construction management students a hands-on experience," said Wagner. "To actually be out on a slurry wall project and see every little bit that's going on."

Following a safety brief, students and teachers were given a tour of the entire construction site, beginning with the mixing site, where the slurry is prepared and pumped to the excavation site. The slurry used on site is a mixture of water, bentonite and cement and is used to create a barrier that helps to prevent seepage through or under the levee. The slurry wall also prevents tree roots, animals and water from creating a tunnel that could compromise the levee.

Following the mixing site, a tour of the excavation site was provided for all students. Two weeks into construction, students were able to see ongoing excavation around an electrical line that runs underneath the bridge. The line is surrounded by a concrete encasement, left in place, with construction ongoing around it to get the slurry wall to full depth.

Rounding out the tour was a walkthrough of the control lab, where on-site testing is conducted. The lab is used to monitor the density and viscosity of the slurry being mixed onsite.

The site tour reminded Wagner of a similar and memorable visit he had as a student.

"The one that is most memorable to me was the Folsom Bridge project near the Folsom Dam," he said. "It really gave me a chance to see the scope and the size of the operations and get a real feel for what is going on."

Assisting Wagner with the site visit were Sacramento District employees and recent University of California - Chico graduates Shauna England, Michelle Lockhart and Jacqueline Steiner.

England had a similar experience when she was still a student.

"I was given the opportunity to come out to the field and do a tour of a similar nature as a student," England said. "It meant so much to me, and I'm trying to give that back to the students."

She also sees the importance in providing a hands-on and real-world example to students outside of the classroom.

"It's so vital and important to see what those numbers that you're calculating and plugging in (in class) -what they actually mean, and what they look like."

The project aims to install cutoff walls more than 70 feet deep into two, 450-feet stretches of American River levees, reducing the risk of flood waters seeping through or under them. Construction continues seven days a week through the five weeks of the project, which began July 18. Closure was scheduled to avoid disrupting the annual Eppie's Great Race triathlon and the start of CSUS's fall semester.

Authorized by the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1996, the levees at the Guy West Bridge are among the last remaining sites to be upgraded under the Corps' and Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency's American River Common Features Project. Between 2000 and 2002, more than 20 miles of cutoff walls, designed to stop seepage, were built into American River levees. Areas where construction was complicated by utilities, bridges or power lines were set aside for later construction.

The estimated completion for the project is mid-to-late August.

"I hope that the students that got to see this really benefitted from this," Wagner said.

"From talking to the students, they all had a great time," England said. "They actually want to see more of this."

The opportunity to provide a glimpse into the real-world use of engineering, especially on an on-going high-visibility project like Guy West Bridge, was what most motivated Wagner the most.

"Having just graduated about a year ago, I feel that being on site, getting a real intimate knowledge of construction and engineering practices is really the way to get students excited and get them involved," Wagner said.

"This is a way to introduce the next leaders to construction and engineering."

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