NASHVILLE, Tenn. - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees from across the country met in Music City this week to get current on hydropower acquisition.

Operations and project managers, engineers, construction representatives, planners and contracting officials attended the Hydropower Acquisition Course June 19-22 at Tennessee State University's Avon Williams Campus to synchronize best practices and work on improving how the Corps of Engineers executes a hydropower project from cradle to grave.

Shawn Worthington, Northwestern Division in Portland, Ore., serves as an asset manager for the Federal Columbia River Power System. As a leader in hydropower acquisition, he helped coordinate between communities of practice to organize the class and put together course materials.

"We talked about how to do a hydropower project from the very beginning in the planning stage through contracting through the design, solicitation and award, through construction and installation to close out," Worthington said.

Maj. Justin Toole, Nashville District deputy commander, welcomed 36 participants to Nashville and encouraged them to network and freely share expertise, because "hydropower is a team sport," he said.

"Cross pollinating between our districts, divisions and entire enterprise improves how we deliver the hydropower program for the nation," Toole stressed. "Building strong relationships during this course will help keep Corps hydropower turbines efficiently turning for generations to come."

Course instruction covered topics such as project planning, engineering and design, contractor involvement, contracting processes, developing bid schedules and cost estimates, acquisition methods, safety coordination, hazard material considerations, risk mitigation, access and staging areas, and government performed activities, furnished equipment and property.

Jamie James, Nashville District Hydropower Rehabilitation Program manager, gave a class overview and highlighted the unique aspects of hydropower acquisition.

He said the Corps of Engineers almost always retrofits, rehabs, repairs and modernizes because 40 percent of the hydropower units are more than 50 years old. In addition, there are customer funding requirements and constraints, small field of contractors that have the expertise to do the work, special considerations with interaction and interdependence of power train components, and a host of technical issues that are challenging, including old designs and technology and the technical nature of design, construction, connection and commissioning of rehabilitated units.

"Everything is technical in nature," James said. "So hydropower projects get very complex as you work your way through them."

Instructors culminated the course with a capstone exercise that challenged teams of participants with hydropower acquisition scenarios requiring them to identify issues and develop proposed solutions. Four teams discussed the issues and challenges, developed alternative approaches, solutions and lessons learned, and then briefed the full class on their findings, allowing for discussion and input from the instructors.

Nita Henry, Mobile District contracting officer in the hydropower cell, said the course and interaction with other hydropower experts from throughout the Corps really helped her better understand the complexities and best practices in maintaining, upgrading and modernizing hydropower.

Henry added that the hydropower cell supports the South Atlantic Division. So the various subjects discussed gave her a greater sense of awareness of the impact a contract can have on those executing it.

"The communication, importance of the project development team, making sure we're paying attention to our project management principles and how we are supposed to do things... it's just an eye-opening class for me," Henry said.

Michael Willingham, Little Rock District Hydropower Project manager, said he's been on the job for four months, so the course provided him valuable contacts to reach out to in moving out with his projects. He said a lot of other Corps organizations have already figured out how to best achieve the tasks and as a community of practice it's important to learn from them.

"That's what really makes this helpful," Willingham said. "Being able to identify those individuals who have been doing this for a very long time, and even the new individuals that are just getting started doing hydropower projects, they provide a different perspective and mechanisms on how we can approach these activities. It allows us to build our knowledge base and further gain efficiencies in what we do."

Worthington said everyone wins when communities of practice share processes, ideas and lessons learned, which is critical given the aging infrastructure at the hydropower plants where equipment and power units need to be rehabilitated, modernized and upgraded.

"It's the very first course, and we're aiming for it to become a PROSPECT (Proponent-Sponsored Engineer Corps Training) course," Worthington added. "I think by bringing us all together we're not only going to share best practices, but learn who our points of contact are, and get a hydropower network where we can work together and improve and just get better at how we do things."

Corps officials acknowledged the dedicated and skilled efforts of those who developed and led the inaugural Hydropower Acquisition Course held in Nashville. In addition to their normal daily duties, leaders worked together to design the curriculum into an informative and engaging program, arrange the instructional setting and facilitate class participation to support USACE-wide knowledge-sharing and improvement in hydropower acquisition.

They included Worthington; Ruthann Haider, Walla Walla District Contracting chief; Duane West, Walla Walla District Construction Branch chief; Shawn Nelson, Walla Walla District Project Management chief; Glenn Matlock, Walla Walla District resident engineer; Phyllis Buerstatte, Walla Walla District contract specialist; Diane Parks, Nashville District Operations Division chief; Tim Dunn, Nashville District Operations Division deputy chief; and Jamie James, Nashville District Section 212 Program manager.

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