NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 29, 2017) – The Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers recently awarded its Government Engineer of the Year award to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s retired water management section chief.
Bob Sneed, who retired in January 2016 with 35 years of federal service, received the engineering accolade during a banquet at the Renaissance Hotel Feb. 24, 2017.
“I feel very honored to have been recognized in this manner. I had the good fortune to have a lengthy and rewarding career with the Nashville District,” Sneed said. “While I was singled out for this recognition, it is really a reflection of the great work that the engineers, scientists, and technicians that make up the water management section do on a daily basis.”
As chief of the Nashville District Water Management Section for the last 12 years of his career with the Corps of Engineers, Sneed led a 10-person interdisciplinary team responsible for carrying out the water control and water quality missions for the entire Cumberland River Basin covering 17,914 square miles. His team performed a daily evaluation of weather, river and reservoir conditions, maintained water control plans, and operated the basin’s reservoir system.
Lt. Col. Stephen Murphy, Nashville District commander, said Sneed managed water releases from the district’s 10 dams and often coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, National Weather Service and Tennessee Valley Authority to evaluate water conditions on a regional level. He balanced the purposes of each reservoir and operated releases at each dam to support navigation throughout the inland waterway system, Murphy added.
“Bob is a great choice for this award. I often relied on his water management expertise, and his work is well respected and recognized by his peers,” Murphy said. “As chief of the water management section, he worked to reduce flood risk and supported hydropower requirements, water quality, water storage and recreation that benefited the region.”
In 2007, Sneed played a key role in applying an adaptive management approach to reservoir system operations to meet stakeholder needs when the Corps of Engineers drew down Lake Cumberland in Kentucky and Center Hill Lake in Tennessee as mandated by the Corps’ dam safety policy and risk reduction measures were applied.
In May 2010, the Cumberland River Basin experienced historical rainfall and flooding with some areas receiving rainfall amounts exceeding 17 inches over two days leading to record flood stages along the Cumberland River from above Nashville to its confluence with the Ohio River. During the 1,000-year rainfall event and 300-year flood event, Sneed led the water management response and served as the Corps spokesman for numerous media interviews.
Following the flood crisis, Sneed helped formulate the district’s after-action report and developed the Water Management Education Series where he provided a water management overview and provided information about flood risk reduction. The videos served to educate the public about how U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Water Management Section maintains the Cumberland River Reservoir System with well-established partnerships with the National Weather Service, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, United States Geological Survey, and Tennessee Valley Authority.
Sneed also supported local schools and students with their science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs. He accompanied students from area high schools on tours of Old Hickory Lock and Dam and participated in World Water Day events hosted by Middle Tennessee Girl Scouts where he discussed how the Corps operates multiple purpose projects to provide benefits throughout the region.
He also helped launch the Stratford High School Externship Program where teachers gain experience with host organizations to develop project-based curriculum that provides students industry exposure and facilitates applied learning.
Through Sneed’s efforts, teachers from Stratford and other local high schools collaborated with the Corps, visited dams and lake projects, and created class projects designed to challenge students and encourage them to investigate, explore, experiment, problem solve, create and invent.
“The Nashville District won ‘The Academies of Nashville Externship of the Year Award’ for 2013-2014 due in large part to Bob’s efforts and focus on STEM,” said Mike Zoccola, a former recipient of the award and retired Nashville District Civil Design Branch chief who nominated Sneed for the award.
Ted A. Kniazewycz, senior bridge engineer with Gresham, Smith & Partners who serves as the awards chair for TSPE, said this award recognizes the engineer who has made the most outstanding contribution to the advancement and practice of engineering in federal, state and local government over a career.
“Bob’s credentials were exceptional and the information presented on his handling of the 2010 floods here in Nashville to a panel of engineers who understood the situation made his selection an obvious choice,” Kniazewycz said. “Additionally, his work with teachers and youth involved in the STEM program highlighted his involvement in the community and his efforts to encourage youth to pursue careers in engineering and the sciences.”
Sneed holds an associate’s degree in science from Cumberland College, and bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in engineering from Vanderbilt University. He has completed multiple emergency operations deployments and served a stint as the technical lead for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes and Ohio River Division in Cincinnati, Ohio.
He also received the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division’s Outstanding Environmental Stewardship Award in 2004, Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Water Conservationist of the Year Award in 2005, Middle Tennessee Federal Executive Association’s Outstanding Scientific Award in 2006, and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ Wildlife Steward Award in 2009.
Mike Wilson, Nashville District’s deputy for Programs and Project Management and also a previous recipient of this award, lauded Sneed for his outstanding service to the Corps of Engineers and to the region for 35 years.
“He is recognized nationwide as a highly skilled water manager and the Nashville area is very fortunate to have had him at the helm during the May 2010 flood,” Wilson said. “He also demonstrated a deep care for our future engineers and scientists by his service to the STEM program.”
When Sneed first started working for the Corps, flows were routed through the reservoir system by hand using a fairly small amount of data. At retirement his team used state of the art computer models to evaluate the impacts of observed and forecasted rainfall on stream flows and resulting reservoir operations.
“I certainly experienced a lot of change over the course of my career,” Sneed recollected.
Sneed stressed that the one thing never changed over the course of his career – and that was the importance of building strong relationships between water managers, partners and stakeholders.
“This is an area where I always placed a lot of emphasis, and feel that it was time well spent in terms of the dividends that it paid,” Sneed said.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)