NHC Engineer Joins Engineers Without Borders' Effort to Provide Flood Protection in Belize

Jimmy Pan, an engineer in NHC's Sacramento office, recently returned from a trip with the Sacramento Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) to provide flood protection assistance to a small town in Belize. Sarteneja, a small coastal village of 3,000 people, suffers frequent flooding that threatens health and safety and destroys property. The EWB chapter is initiating a three-year program during which the volunteer team will assess flood issues, develop protection plans, and oversee implementation.

In May, Jimmy joined a team of six volunteer professionals with expertise in transportation, construction, and environmental design on a week-long assessment trip. During the trip, the EWB team identified the causes and extent of flooding and collected design data to support flood system design. They surveyed to quantify the elevation gradient and past flood depths, installed water level and rain gauges, and mapped existing utilities. They met with a wide range of stakeholders to understand ongoing flood mitigation work and additional needs. The team investigated legal construction restrictions and identified sources of construction materials. The village council and residents provided valuable anecdotal information on past flooding, including video of the most recent severe flooding. EWB also identified various local ponding issues due to culvert blockage and drainage problems. Topographic survey data were processed to represent terrain change with respect to sea level. The EWB team is working closely with the village council and an NGO to develop a suitable design to address the flooding and hope to return to Sarteneja in 2018 for implementation. Ongoing project updates can be found at the EWB-Sacramento Chapter website.

The last major flood in Sarteneja - view from a house to the street
Drainage ponding caused by a wall in an area of high groundwater