American Society of Civil Engineers Recognizes Lemnitzer for Research Contribution to Geotechnical Engineering

Anne Lemnitzer

April 21, 2022 – Anne Lemnitzer, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, has received the 2022 Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers for her research assessing the seismic hazard and failure potential of levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Established in 1955, the Middlebrooks Award honors one research group a year whose paper is judged worthy of special commendation for its contribution to geotechnical engineering.

Lemnitzer’s paper is titled “Settlement Rate Increase in Organic Soils Following Cyclic Loading” and was published in the ASCE Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, volume 147, issue 2. She shares the award with co-authors Samuel Yniesta, Polytechnique Montréal; Riccardo Cappa, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger; and Scott Brandenberg, UCLA.

The probability of massive, simultaneous breaching of levees due to earthquake loading is high, which poses a significant hazard to the region, as more than 40% of Southern California’s water supply relies on the delta. Lemnitzer warns that levee failure would have major and devastating consequences, including flooding of thousands of acres of agricultural farmland; draw-in of saline water from the Pacific Ocean, leading to a breakdown of Southern California’s water supply system; destruction of the ecological environment within the delta; and estimated economic losses of $50 billion to the state of California alone.

“This research provides a timely and solid scientific basis for better seismic risk assessments and liquefaction mitigation techniques, as California policy decision-makers are currently faced with the security of the state’s water delivery system,” said Lemnitzer.

“It is a great honor to have performed research that stood out amongst all submissions for this award,” she said. “It confirms that translational research is essential and needed by engineering practice. The ability to provide new tools and methods, directly implementable into geotechnical engineering practice, is extremely rewarding.”

– Tonya Becerra