The district engineer for the Rock Island District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be recognized by an industry publication as one of the top 25 newsmakers of 2005. McGraw Hill’s Engineering News-Record magazine chose Colonel Duane Gapinski of Davenport for the honor after the work he did following gulf-coast hurricanes.
They called the project “un-watering,” he says, and he went down right after Hurricane Katrina hit and was on the job while Hurricane Rita hit. Gapinski concludes he “got rid of a lot of the water twice, in some areas.” He explains the area already had an extensive pumping system, as much of it’s below sea-level.
They had those existing systems to use in getting rid of the water — although of course, they weren’t working after Katrina hit and some places were under as much as fifteen feet of water.
He’d volunteered for that job, but when he first saw that 80-percent of the City of New Orleans was under water — even though it was only a part of the area they’d be working in, he said “Oh, my, why did I do this?” The Colonel says it was as simple as letting water flow out of the levees, or preventing more from flowing in, hauling big sandbags with helicopters.
Those aren’t the sandbags you think of for fighting a flood in Iowa, like the volunteers picked up. These weighed from three to seven-thousand pounds, and they flew enough onto breaks in the levees to stop the water flowing through. “Then the next thing you do is, you get those pumps working,” he says. One of those systems could pump out eight-billion gallons of water a day.
As the Commander of the Rock Island District Corps of Engineers, he’s accustomed to having people under his command who know how to get things running. He’s responsible for maintaining about 600 navigable miles of the Mississippi and the Illinois River, including the locks and dams from Dubuque down to Hannibal, Missouri, and the length of the Illinois River from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi. Then they also handle flood-control projects like building levees. The engineering magazine commends Gapinski for deploying resources to handle “an enormously complex task” in a situation where he didn’t have any high-tech tools to survey the situation or communicate. He grew up in New York State and says it’ll be a treat to be honored by the publication at a lunch and dinner on April 6 in New York City.