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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Health assessment of earth dams in Lebanon: towards sustainable development

PI:  Naji Khoury (Notre Dame University-Louaize)
U.S. Partner: Michael A. Mooney (Colorado School of Mines)
Project Dates: August 2013 to July 2016
In this project researchers will use accepted scientific and engineering procedures to study earth dams in Lebanon in order to advance scientific and applied knowledge about best practices for building and monitoring earth dams. This will be accomplished by visually inspecting dams for deficiencies, using geophysical techniques to assess dams and monitor their integrity, and modeling internal erosion using a support vector machine. Development of these models can help predict the performance and health of earth dams and add to existing models on the erosion characteristics of soils.

Three educational aims complement the research work and add to the scientific merit. The program includes plans for recruiting and mentoring high school and undergraduate students, particularly women and persons with disabilities, to help them gain experience in engineering research; developing a program to introduce high school students and persons with disabilities to sustainable practices in civil engineering; and organizing workshops on sustainable engineering for use in high schools and public forums. The educational component of this project will give remote communities access to information about building and maintaining earth dams. As communities become familiar with appropriate techniques, they will not only experience economic growth but will also be able to advocate for policy changes regarding dam construction and maintenance. On the broader international level, the scientific community at large can use the results in future research on understanding earth dam behavior, and data collected during the project can be added to the international database on earth dams.

Summary of Recent Activities

The work done from August to December 2013 started with the recruitment of five undergraduate research assistants, with four additional students volunteering to work on the project. Dr. Khoury and his student assistants made four trips on October 5, 12, and 20 and November 4, 2013, to conduct visual inspections of earth dams and to collect samples for laboratory testing in Laqlouq. The team has also begun laboratory testing on bulk samples from 16 lakes. Aside from the site visits, the PI made two visits to Laqlouq to discuss progress on the project with the town’s mayor, Boutros Hachem. The PI also met with Mario Rebeiz from the USAID mission in Lebanon and Prof. Michel Nehme to discuss the project. A further meeting with Georges Daccache on the use of geo-membranes in Lebanese earthdams was held in Okaibe. A project web presence has been created in the form of a Facebook page, accessible at <>.

Lebanon 1
The research team collects soil core samples at Laqlouq for laboratory testing (Photo courtesy Dr. Khoury).

Lebanon 2
Dr. Khoury and his team of undergraduate research assistants discuss visual inspection of the earth dams in Laqlouq (Photo courtesy Dr. Khoury).

It is expected that laboratory tests will continue through the first half of 2014. In addition, field trips are scheduled to reassess the lakes surveyed in the last quarter, and field tests are planned for new lakes. Training for undergraduate students will continue, and one or two high-school students will be recruited through the office of admissions to spend a summer in the PI’s lab working closely with the undergraduate research assistants.
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