Melzar Coulter, PE
Geotechnical Department Manager
Grand Rapids experienced record flooding in April 2013 with the Grand River cresting at 21.85 ft. In the days and moments leading up to the peak, rain was in the forecast that could have pushed the crest even higher. With the City in a State of Emergency, the Mayor asked for volunteers and MTC staff answered the call.
MTC engineers volunteered to fill sand bags and build sand bag walls at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Ah-Nab-Awen Park, and 201 Market Avenue where concerns of low freeboard existed for the projected flood stage. As the floodwaters rose on Saturday, April 20th, additional work was needed as the stress on the system began taking effect; MTC team members Steve Elliott, PE, Jon O’Brock, PE and Melzar Coulter, PE worked into the night. Fortunately, the City’s floodwall system and preparations functioned as intended.
MTC is proud to have responded to assist the community in these challenging days as required by the Obligation of the Engineer, “When needed, my skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation for the public good”. In fact, our participation in the flood preparation began long before the event was imminent and continues through the present. Driven by legislative changes, MTC partnered with Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber to complete a stability analysis for the floodwalls and embankments in 2012 and winter of 2013. The length of the flood protection considered for the study was approximately 44,000 ft of river edge. The study included a review of available information, additional soil borings, field reconnaissance, and engineering analysis. Subsequent to the flood, stability and seepage analyses are being performed for the embankments protecting the City’s wastewater treatment plant. The treatment plant is a critical asset for the health and welfare of the community and ecosystem, and components of the flood protection embankments date from the first development of the plant in the early 20th century.