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Posted 4/27/2017

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By Steve Rochette

BELTZVILLE (April 29, 2017) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District is bidding farewell to George Sauls, the Northern Area Engineer who retired after serving for more than 40 years. He was closely involved with numerous civil works projects and mentored many employees throughout his career.

“It will be impossible to replace George’s institutional knowledge and expertise, and especially his passion for the water control program and our dams” said Chief of Operations Tony DePasquale. “George has been an invaluable player on the Ops team, leading the way, coordinating and establishing the F.E. Walter Recreation Plan, Prompton Dam Modification, and reviewing and perfecting countless dam inspection and water control reports.”

For the last 15 years, Sauls has managed the water control mission for the five large earthen dams – Francis E. Walter, Beltzville, Blue Marsh, Prompton, and Jadwin – that comprise the District’s northern area. The five dams have prevented more than $3 billion in damage and also provide more than $120 million in local economic activity for the surrounding communities of Eastern Pennsylvania.

Sauls, a native of the Westmont section of Haddon Township, N.J., began his Army career after being drafted on April 29, 1970. He served in Vietnam as a surveyor for nearly 12 months helping to construct roads and bridges. He was recognized for his service with a bronze star.

After returning from Vietnam, Sauls worked in the private industry and later attended the University of Pittsburgh where he earned his degree in civil engineering. In 1977, he began working for the Philadelphia District as part of the Junior Engineer in Training (“JET”) Program.  

After rotating through different sections, Sauls said he was torn between the Hydrology & Hydraulics (H&H) branch and the Geotechnical branch. He decided to work in H&H where he ultimately worked from 1978 to 2003, serving as chief of the branch starting in 1986.

“In H&H, we were involved with nearly every civil works project and we had a great team,” said Sauls.

Sauls led the branch during a key time as the team worked on numerous groundbreaking projects including the Prompton Dam modification, the construction of the Barnegat Inlet South Jetty, the Indian River Inlet sand bypass project, and the Molly Anns Brook Flood Protection project. Perhaps most notable was the work to justify the Cape May City and Ocean City beachfill projects, which were constructed in the early 1990s.

“The engineering on those projects helped pave the way for many other projects in coastal New Jersey and Delaware,” said Monica Chasten who began working for Sauls in the H&H Branch as a co-op student from Drexel.  

Sauls witnessed changes associated with the age of computers. He said the technology and methods changed significantly during his tenure, though the end goal of sound engineering remained the same.

“Back in the late 70s and early 80s, we would actually go to a computer center and use punch cards to run hydraulic models,” said Sauls.  

In 2003, Sauls opted for a change in position and venue when he became the Northern Area Engineer at the Beltzville Dam office in in the southern foothills of the Poconos. Sauls was a natural fit in the position as he relied on knowledge and skills from his time in H&H.

“I credit Dave Williams for encouraging me to come to the Northern Area,” said Sauls. “It was a chance for me to do something different and move to a new area.”

Dave Williams, Hydrologic Technician and Head Dam Operator at the Francis E. Walter Dam, worked for Sauls in the H&H Branch and in the Northern Area.

Williams said Sauls is a man of integrity who took his position as a civil servant very seriously.  

“He speaks his mind, he stands behind his decisions, which are well thought out, and he is going to be missed,” said Williams. “I always enjoyed working for George as I was never on his bad side! He's got a good sense of humor, he's been a great mentor to me and other folks in the District.”

Williams added that Sauls has always been “very personable with stakeholders and is able to explain the Army Corps’ position on decisions.”

His engaging, direct, and no-nonsense style served him well during the development and ongoing negotiations of the Francis E. Walter Dam Recreation Plan. He hosted dozens of public meetings with commercial and recreational rafters, fishermen and other stakeholders attempting to strike a balance in the allocation of water releases from the dam.

During the early years, meetings were often contentious; however, Sauls worked diligently with stakeholders and representatives from Pennsylvania agencies to improve aspects of the Recreation Plan each year while educating stakeholders on capabilities and constraints. In recent years, meetings have run smoothly as most participants are well versed on the issues and work together to develop a mutually beneficial plan.   

On April 29, exactly 47 years after being drafted into the U.S. Army, Sauls officially retires from the Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District.

He plans to spend time with his wife and two sons, ride his motorcycle, and play some golf.