June 1, 2012

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Victoria Harkins (center) receives ACEC awards - pictured with Chairman of ACEC Texas, Allen Watson (left) and Vice Chairman for Public Relations of ACEC Texas, Tony Kimmey (right).

AAWRE Diplomate Victoria Harkins, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE was awarded the 2012 American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Texas Gold Medal/Eminent Conceptor Engineering Excellence Award and ACEC National Award this past April in Austin, TX and Washington, DC. Dr. Harkins was recognized for her work and design on the Hamilton Pool and its Receiving Watershed Restoration Project in Austin, Texas.

The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Excellence Awards Competition is to honor and recognize outstanding achievements within the engineering community. The distinguished panel of judges selected 13 Gold Medal and 8 Silver Medal winning projects based on uniqueness, originality, technical, value to the engineering profession, complexity and how successfully the project met the needs of the client.

The Hamilton Pool (HP) is a naturally occurring pool on Hamilton Creek maintained by Travis County Parks in the Austin, TX, area. This natural feature has been a landmark for the Texas Hill Country and Austin area for centuries. In late 2007, the discharge of materials from an upstream residential development in Hays and Travis Counties into the Hamilton Creek watershed polluted and impacted the water quality of Hamilton and Davis Creeks and Hamilton Pool.

RPS Espey, formerly known as Espey Consultants, Inc., which was founded by current AAWRE President Dr. Bill Espey, Jr., was retained by Travis County to assess the condition of Hamilton and Davis Creeks and HP and subsequently develop a remediation and restoration plan. The restoration of HP and its receiving watershed addressed very complex criteria and unique problems, which involved removing a tremendous amount of silt from environmentally sensitive and inaccessible locations in and along six miles of a Texas Hill Country creek system. A project of this type and scale was unprecedented at the time. Special care and design was needed to combine the project tasks and goals while also remaining sensitive to the natural character of the creek, landowner concerns, and minimizing any potential impacts on endangered species.

Dr. Harkins applied a creative and innovative sediment removal and restoration plan, which included manual and equipment-assisted silt removal for environmentally sensitive areas with special attention to local wildlife, livestock, vegetation, and aquatic species. The project had measureable positive impacts with re-establishment of the creek system and HP to restore the system’s vegetative, wildlife, aquatic, and recreational values. HP is part of the Balcones Canyonland Preserve, home to the endangered Golden Cheek Warbler (GCW). Special attention with design changes were made to address the GCW.

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Dr. Harkins reflects on the honors:

“It took several moments for the announcement of the award to sink in. I thought they were calling out awards in random order, which they were until the last three. I was speechless! I was so impressed by the other engineering projects; there was no thought to my project being in the same realm of consideration. I am honored and humbled”.

Dr. Harkins has over 13 years experience providing a wide array of civil and environmental engineering services. Services include water and wastewater utility services: including rate analyses, certificates of convenience and necessity (CCN), asset evaluations, etc.; water and wastewater treatment design, permitting, groundwater well and treatment plant design, environmental assessments, environmental remediation (small to multi million dollars) and water quality modeling. Victoria has over nine years experience in utility work with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and as a private consultant. Dr. Harkins is considered an expert in water and wastewater utility services and has testified numerous times as the TCEQ’s expert witness as well as a private consultant for numerous cities, customer groups, and water utilities. She is a registered professional engineer in the States of Texas and Oklahoma.

More information on ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards

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