President's Message 

The Sacramento Section will be hosting the annual Project Awards Banquet on April 11 at the Sheraton in Downtown Sacramento.  In addition to honoring 19 outstanding projects within the Sacramento Section, the Golze Scholarship recipients will receive their awards.  Please visit our event page to register.

Speaking of awards, on March 31, ASCE Region 9 hosted its annual awards dinner and honored outstanding Individual Award Winners from the Sacramento Section.  All of these individuals have carried out the mission of ASCE and made the Sacramento Section proud:

  • Civil Engineer in Legislative Activities – David Schwegal, P.E.
  • ASCE Section Officer – Thor Larsen, P.E.
  • ASCE Branch Officer – Radley Ott, P.E.
  • ASCE Faculty Advisor – Steffen Mehl, Ph.D.
  • ASCE Life Member – Larry Smith, P.E.
  • Excellence in Journalism – Susan Sward

It is worth noting that in July 2016, Ms. Sward wrote an inspiring article for the Sacramento Bee titled, “America Needs an Upgrade”, focusing on the poor state of our nation’s infrastructure and the general lack of political will and public support to make the investments necessary to keep our nation competitive in the global economy. This article is inspirational and definitely worth reading:

After recently rereading Ms. Sward’s article, one item that jumped out for me was that she wrote this article nine months ago and the Oroville Dam Spillway failure occurred less than two months ago:

Dams are problematic as well. More than 2,000 dams in unsatisfactory or poor condition have been classified as high hazard – meaning a loss of life would occur if any of those dams failed.

This is just one infrastructure failure among many that will come if we fail to act; a topic which has found its way into almost every conversation I have these days. In fact, I recently found myself hanging out with a Mechanical Engineer, Electrical Engineer and a sustainability committee Chairperson.  We were talking about the infrastructure needs, and I was asked an interesting question: “What bridges are the ones that no one pays attention to?” I responded with, “It’s easy to dismiss a bridge that does not have visible columns and cables like the Golden Gate or Bay Bridge.  Imagine if the I-5 Bridge over the American River between Natomas and downtown Sacramento or the Causeway between Davis and Sacramento were to become unusable… What would that do to Sacramento?” One of the engineers said, “Oh my god, I drive over a bridge every day, and I didn’t even know it.  That would be horrible!”

This particular horror of failed bridges is a painful reality of many, including two recent examples, the first of which is in our proverbial backyard:

On Feb 11, 2017, “a person walking under [the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge] noticed fractures in one of the pillars and saw the ground under the base washing out from underneath.”…  Four days later, the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge on California’s Highway 1 deteriorated to the point that it was closed indefinitely. This failure caused a community to become isolated.  Specialized Helicopters are flying those stranded from Post Ranch to the Monterey Regional Airport for $780. You can find more information in this news article: 

On March 31, 2017 (less than a month ago), the I-85 in Atlanta collapsed due to a large fire under the bridge.  When an event like this occurs, it hinders the economy through congestion and a potential increase in accidents through drivers taking unfamiliar detour routes. 

As Professional Engineers, our duty is to protect the public (excerpt taken from the Professional Engineers Act): “Protection of the public shall be the highest priority for the Board of Professional Engineers.”

But I digress, as I walked away from that conversation I asked myself: How can I make a difference? I mulled this over for a few days, before I smacked my head and did my best Homer Simpson, “Doh!” The answer is, everyone can use a good conversation about how much infrastructure means to them. Understanding infrastructures’ importance to daily life is key to providing an impetus for action. I encourage each one of us to have this kind of conversation about infrastructure and get involved in protecting the public.  If you’re at a loss to start, here are my ideas:


Elias Karam
ASCE Sacramento Section President '16-'17