KU engineering part of $7.7 million federal project to extend the life of old dams across the U.S.

photo by: Caroline Bennett/KU

The University of Kansas' structural testing facility on West Campus is used in a federal project to test new ways to reinforce aging dams.

Engineers at the University of Kansas are part of a new $7.7 million project to expand the life of dams that were built across the U.S. during the Great Depression era.

KU is partnering with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal entities on the five-year project.

One set of researchers in the KU School of Engineering will be studying ways to use artificial intelligence, computer vision and advanced sensors to better detect problem areas in aging dams.

Another set of researchers is working with new fiber-reinforced polymer materials as a way to strengthen weak spots in dams.

Caroline Bennett, a professor and fellow in civil, environmental and architectural engineering, is leading the project for KU, with associate professors Jian Li and Rémy Lequesne leading key teams of researchers at the engineering school.

Several assessments have estimated that the nation’s dams and levees need more than $90 billion worth of upgrades, as many of the concrete structures were built as part of the New Deal program as the country was coming out of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

“This is hugely important infrastructure,” Bennett said in a KU release. “We’re not really building new dams anymore, so it has become critical to maintain our existing inventory of dams from both a safety perspective, for drinking water, as well as navigability of our waterways.”


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.