No Kudos for avoiding crises

Murray Bridge Abutment Remediation

Richard Herraman and Robert C Frazer

How can we avoid crises? How do we identify a potential crisis and then take action to avoid it? During the drought of the early 2000s the water level in the River Murray reduced, resulting in cracking and failure of the river bank.

Robert Frazer, a Civil Engineer practising in Murray Bridge, realised that soil moving during failure of a river bank could impact and break a pier supporting a bridge, causing it to collapse. He suspected that this was possible at three bridges over the River Murray near Murray Bridge and reported this to Richard Herraman, a geotechnical engineer working for the then Department of Planning, Transport & Infrastructure.

The Department set Robert and Richard the task of determining the risk to the bridges from failure of the river bank arising from reduced water level in the river and, if the risk was considered excessive, what could be done to reduce it to an acceptable level.

The findings of their investigation were reported to the Executive of the Department of Planning, Transport & Infrastructure who authorised the design and implementation of preventative measures. In this case it was fortunate that a local engineer identified a potential problem and timely action was taken. This begs the question, in engineering projects what activities and processes can be undertaken to maximise the chance of identifying potential problems?

The major river bank issues related to this current presentation, were due to the historically low river levels encountered during the millennial drought, and in particular the extremely low levels during 2009, when the river level at Murray Bridge was officially recorded at <-1.2m AHD> at the end of April 2009.

Richard Herraman Formerly Principal Geotechnical Engineer, Department of Planning,Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI), SA

Richard Herraman managed the Geotechnical Engineering Group of DPTI for 15 years.  During this time his group provided a range of geotechnical services for many successful transportation infrastructure projects delivered by DPTI and, with help from Dr Tony Meyers of Rocktest, established a system for managing cuttings and embankments.   Also during this time he became aware of the shortcomings of methods used for designing excavations and retaining structures in unsaturated clay.  He worked with Mr John Woodburn, engineers in his Department, the Australian Geomechanics Society and the University of Adelaide to improve practice in this area of engineering.  During his time with DPTI Richard, with help from other engineers, identified and took action to avoid potential problems to transport infrastructure.  Fortunately he was successful, but was there a large component of luck?

Robert C Frazer

Robert C Frazer Engineering Consultant

Robert commenced his career within the broader Construction Industry in the early 1970’s, being involved in the construction of various projects in SA, NT and NSW. The consultancy practice of Robert C Frazer was established in 1980, which provided varying engineering services to a number of various projects throughout all states of Australia. These included involvement with projects as diverse as: River bank issues related to flooding, drought, excavation & earthworks, Wind farms, Rail track investigations, Road pavements, Heavy duty pavements, RCC dams, Fibre reinforced concrete, Geopolymer concrete, Geopolymer stabilisation, GFRP reinforced piles & structures, Oil & Gas Industry projects in NW WA and Qld.

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