Spotlight on USACE Galveston District’s Leslie Olson

Published Feb. 4, 2015

GALVESTON, Texas (Feb. 4, 2015) – With six months on the job as a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District supervisory civil engineer in the Engineering and Construction Division (Southern Area Office), Leslie Olson has her hands full, juggling the design of maintenance dredging projects in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW), Corpus Christi Ship Channel, Brazos Island Harbor and the Matagorda ship channels.

“My job is to ensure that we develop projects that promote safe and efficient navigation through the federal channels of the South Texas coast,” said Olson. “In order to fully develop those projects, I work with my team to collect, analyze and disseminate data that enhances and broadens our understanding of the regular conditions and behaviors of the channels in our area.”

Olson is one of many USACE Galveston District employees who play a key role in America’s well-being by keeping waterways open for navigation and commerce and oversees projects that deepen and widen waterways, such as ports, ship channels and the GIWW for the safe and expeditious accommodation of commercial waterborne traffic.

“I enjoy working with a broad group of individuals from across the district to develop projects that meet multiple intersecting purposes,” said Olson. “From navigation interests to environmental and economic impacts, our projects are critical to the success and prosperity of South Texas.”

Responsible for maintaining more than 1,000 miles of channel, including 270 miles of deep draft and 750 miles of shallow draft, Olson and her colleagues are instrumental in keeping vital marine arteries open for waterborne traffic carrying cargo to and from Texas ports, which creates nearly 1.4 million jobs and generates $82.8 billion in personal income annually.

Traditionally a male-dominated field, Olson says she was drawn to this career while attending a “Women in Engineering” weekend event sponsored by what would later become her alma mater.

“I discovered that engineering was the technical term for the way my brain was already wired to think,” said Olson. “The next step was obvious; turn my passion and innate ability into a rich and fulfilling career.”

And that’s just what Olson did. After earning two bachelor’s degrees in Architectural Engineering and Civil Engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 2007 and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2009, she was hired as a quality assurance representative with the USACE Savannah District. Quickly learning the ropes in Georgia, she was selected for a one-year deployment in support of the Transatlantic South District where she worked as a project engineer and in the Tarin Kowt and Delaram resident offices. Following a six month extension, she worked as an office engineer in the Claims Terminations and Disputes Branch in Kandahar, Afghanistan before returning stateside to accept a position as an engineer in the Corpus Christi Resident Office.

Regardless of where Olson serves, she enjoys collaborating with co-workers on the development and application of tools that can help explain the natural and man-made conditions of Texas channels.

“It’s my hope that these tools will lead to a better understanding of how and when our dredging operations can be made more efficient and therefore more cost-effective for the government and taxpayers,” said Olson.

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Olson is a licensed Professional Engineer and earned a Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act Level 1 Contracting certification. During her time with the Corps, she was awarded the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service, Achievement Medal for Civilian Service, Global War on Terrorism Civilian Service Medal (2) and the NATO Civilian Service Medal (2).  In her free time, she and her partner Casandra spend time with their family, camping and working on projects around the house.

Release no. 15-003