San Francisco District’s Harper continues ERDC University project

U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center
Published Sept. 2, 2022

VICKSBURG, Miss. – Spencer Harper, a coastal engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) San Francisco District, reached the halfway mark in his research project with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) six-month detail program known as ERDC University, or ERDC-U.

Harper has seen significant progress during his research project titled, “Evaluation of Strategic Shallow Water Beneficial Use Placement Sites for Dredge Material in San Francisco Bay and the Impacts of a Non-stationary Climate.”

Harper is applying his expertise in coastal engineering, nearshore processes and beneficial use of dredge material by working with his mentor, research hydraulic engineer and contributing researcher Dr. Gaurav Savant, and research hydraulic engineer Mary Bryant, both from ERDC’s Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory (CHL).

“I am investigating the resilience of shallow water placement of dredge material in the San Francisco Bay, with respect to relative sea level rise due to a non-stationary climate,” Harper said. “I am examining the ability of tides and currents to move the dredged sediment placed in the near shore environment to existing marshes, making them more resilient to rising waters.”

“Our district team has used available wind data in the San Francisco Bay to understand the predominate wind patterns in each subembayment and the typical waves that these winds create,” he continued. “Understanding the areas that frequently experience wind waves large enough to stir up beneficially placed material in shallow water is key to identifying future placement sites.”

Harper hopes the results from his ERDC University work, along with the knowledge gained from the pilot project, can streamline future strategic shallow water placement projects in the Bay and help identify shallow water placement sites that will maximize the volume of sediment that can be transported to marshes on the fringes of the bay.

“Our progress so far has allowed the team to filter potential sites based on wave energy and is now working to understand which sites provided optimal transport conditions to move the resuspended sediment to the surrounding mudflats and marshes and how these sites may be impacted by sea level change in the future,” he said. “The existing strategic shallow water placement pilot project in San Francisco Bay will provide important insight about the logistical feasibility of strategic shallow water placement.”      

Harper will present his research results at the ERDC-U graduation ceremony scheduled for Sept. 15, 2022, during a presentation to senior leadership and invited guests. Dr. David Pittman, ERDC director, will present diplomas to the six ERDC-U 2022 participants. Interested district team members can access the event virtually with an invitation request to Harper.                                   

“ERDC University has been a phenomenal experience, a true highlight of my time with USACE,” Harper said. “It has helped me develop relationships with industry experts at CHL and throughout ERDC. The connections, knowledge and expanded capabilities I have gained have already provided significant benefits to our district projects. The program is a great career development opportunity, and I would highly recommend it to any USACE employee that is considering applying.”                                                                                         

“This is an exciting opportunity for the selectees to help shape the future of the Corps of Engineers’ technical knowledge base,” said ERDC-U Program Manager Antisa Webb “Participants gain knowledge of ERDC science and technology, collaborate and partner with ERDC researchers to grow programs and explore opportunities for career advancement. The goals are to establish a process that leverages workforce development with collaborations and partnerships across the USACE.”

To learn more about ERDC University, including application requirements for the upcoming session opening Oct. 1, 2022, please visit