Spotlight on USACE Galveston District’s Robert Thompson

Published Oct. 1, 2015

GALVESTON, Texas (Oct. 1, 2015) – Survey Party Chief Robert Thompson splits his work day between the shore and sea, planning, conducting and coordinating land and hydrographic surveys to determine the condition of major navigation channels and placement areas the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District maintains.

“I maintain the tide staffs along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Colorado and San Bernard rivers as well as recover and verify geodetic control and tidal benchmarks for use in converting data to Mean Lower Low Water datum for future dredging projects,” said Thompson.

In layman’s terms, he collects critical tidal information that can be plotted graphically to give engineers a better idea of changes in water elevations over time and guide them in their decisions when using federally-authorized disposal site for dredged material and developing dredging contract specifications.

“I supply this data to our engineers, who use it primarily in the calculation of placement areas and dredging volumes,” said Thompson. “Each year, the district dredges approximately 30 to 40 million cubic yards of material from Texas channels to fulfill its mission of keeping waterways open for navigation and commerce.”

As part of the dredging process, the material collected is placed in approved disposal sites or used for other environmentally-acceptable purposes to benefit local communities and improve eroded coastlines through marsh restoration, beach nourishment and other beneficial uses when possible. Annually, the USACE Galveston District uses 3-4 million cubic yards of dredged material to benefit Texas coastal ecosystems.

“I like the mix of office work and field work,” said Thompson. “Recovering geodetic control monuments and analyzing subsidence or supposed changes in their vertical positions, as well as examining how the new datums will tie together with the work we are doing to be compliant with the Comprehensive Evaluation of Project Datums ensures there is never a dull moment on the job.”

Geodetic control points are established as permanent physical monuments placed in the ground and precisely marked, located and documented. The Corps implements consistent methodologies using state-of-the-art technology to ensure the most accurate information is used in coordination with its navigation projects.

Thompson explains that with sea level change and high historical rates of subsidence along the Texas coast, providing accurate survey data will provide a consistent reference to the changing water surface, information that is crucial to the Corps’ operations and maintenance program along the Texas coast.

Established in 1880 as the first engineer district in Texas to oversee river and harbor improvements, the district has expanded its mission to provide vital public engineering services that strengthen the nation’s security, energize the economy and maintain federal navigation channels for four of the top 11 ranked ports in the United States with respect to tonnage.

“Our work as surveyors directly supports national, regional and local waterborne commerce operations and ensures safe and reliable channel availability of more than 1,000 miles of channels along the Texas coast,” said Thompson. “I believe my experience contributes to improving the quality of survey work we produce here at the district.”

A native of Rolla, Missouri. Thompson began his surveying career in 1969 and went on to become a licensed professional surveyor. When not at work, he enjoys quality time with his family.