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Civil Engineering Senior Design Team reimagines Columbia Basin pipeline systems

Team Members: Jennifer Goetz, Ritzwi Chapagain, Casey Williams, Anna Li, Matthew Gomez, Mark Suter

A group of Six seniors in the Civil Engineering program were tasked with designing a pipeline system that would re-route the wintertime flows from the canal to Brooks Lake for their Fall 2022 Senior Design Project. We reached out to the students and asked for an overview of this project as they have just returned from Ephrata, Washington, where they were given a tour of the Columbia Basin Project, their project site, and the Grand Coulee dam. This trip was sponsored by the department and the United States Bureau of Reclamation’s. See below to read Anna Li’s description of their project and their trip to Washington.   

“For our senior design project, we worked with the United States Bureau of Reclamation’s (USBR) Technical Services Center (TSC), located in Denver, Colorado. Our work supported their regional office in Ephrata, Washington for the Columbia Basin Project (CBP). 

We were tasked with designing 300 feet of canal relining and regrading, a turnout structure from the canal, and a pipeline from the canal to a nearby lake. During the summer the canal flows full for the CBP agricultural irrigation system but during the winter the radial gates at Pinto Dam are closed to stop water flow in the canal. This is because it is outside of the growing season and irrigation water is not needed. Despite the gates being closed, 5 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water still flows into the canal. The USBR would like to address this wintertime flow, which has the potential to damage the canal through freeze/thaw cycles. Thus, the inlet to our pipeline would be closed during the growing season when the canal is flowing but opened at the turnout structure during the winter to move the water out of the canal and into Brooks Lake. 

Our project is, to my knowledge, one of the first senior design projects that the University of Colorado Denver’s Civil Engineering Department has had out of state. Our team was sponsored by the department and the USBR to travel with Professor Marxhausen and our USBR project lead from the TSC, Mr. Prince Appiah, to the project area near Ephrata, Washington. During the trip we were given a professional development tour of the CBP, our project site, and Grand Coulee Dam. 

We learned a lot about the CBP, which is one of the largest irrigation systems that the USBR has ever constructed and serves almost 700,00 acres of irrigated agricultural land in central Washington. Our project is part of a series of projects for the CBP to more efficiently manage irrigation water in the northern portion of the CBP and provide additional water to the southern portion. 

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At the CU Denver College of Engineering, Design and Computing, we focus on providing our students with a comprehensive engineering education at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level. Faculty conduct research that spans our five disciplines of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and computer science and engineering. The college collaborates with industry from around the state; our laboratories and research opportunities give students the hands-on experience they need to excel in the professional world.

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