The American Council of Engineering Companies

A $1.1 billion response to the death and destruction of Hurricane Katrina has been named the year's most outstanding engineering achievement in the 46th Annual Engineering Excellence Awards — a juried national competition sponsored by the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC).

The new Lake Borgne Surge Barrier — designed by Tetra Tech INCA of Bellevue, Wash. — is a concrete and steel defense against any future Katrina-like assault. At 26 feet tall and nearly 2 miles long, it is the largest surge barrier of its kind. Built to withstand a 100-year storm surge event, the surge barrier effectively moves the first line of storm-surge defense more than 12 miles away from downtown New Orleans, and is now a model for floodgate and flood-wall design worldwide.

Other top Engineering Excellence Award winners include:

  • U.S. Highway 82 Mississippi River Bridge, Washington County, Miss. — 2,500-foot-long, three-span cable-stayed bridge that becomes the third longest of its type in the United States, and a “dazzling successor” to the 1940s-era bridge it replaced, according to ACEC.

  • Elwha River Restoration, City of Port Angeles and Clallam County, Wash. — the second largest National Park Service river restoration project in U.S. history prevents adverse environmental impact from 18 million cubic yards of trapped sediment during removal of two obsolete 1900s-era hydroelectric dams.
  • Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge, San Diego — 550-foot pedestrian bridge that is one of the longest self-anchored suspension bridges in the world, and a striking new gateway to downtown San Diego.
  • Yorkville Dam Safety Improvements/Bypass Channel, Yorkville, Ill. — water recreational attractions were enhanced while eliminating life-threatening downstream turbulence that claimed 28 drowning victims in the last 35 years.

For more on the awards program, check out the full list of 2012 winners and honorable mentions.