In January 1988, Bill Rochford started working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Chicago District, as a geotechnical engineer. And, back then, he said there was only one desktop computer that was shared between his office, Geotech & Coastal Branch, and the Structural Engineering Section. Today, with several job titles and work details under his belt, he’s saying goodbye to the Chicago District but not the Corps. He’ll now be a senior geotechnical engineer at the Corps’ Dam Safety Modification Mandatory Center of Expertise – Dam Safety Production Center, co-located at the Corps’ Huntington District.
He’s leaving Chicago as chief of the Geotechnical Engineering - Dam and Levee Safety Section. Other positions during his time in Chicago include engineering manager in the Engineering Management Branch, assistant chief of the Design Branch, and chief of the Geotechnical Section (which became the Geotech & Survey Section, and now the Geotechnical – Dam & Levee Safety Section). In addition, since 2001, he has served as the district’s Dam Safety program manager; program manager of the Inspection of Completed Works (ICW) program since 2005; levee safety program manager since 2005; and, since 2008, has served as the operations officer during Emergency Operations Center activations.
Details include the USACE Jacksonville District in 2007 to help design and award the Reach 1 cutoff wall contract for the Herbert Hoover Dike project; in 2011 to assist at the HQ Unified Operations Center during the 2011 Ohio and Mississippi record floods; and at HQUSACE in Washington, D.C. in 2019 as endowed chair for Dam Safety in the Dam & Levee Safety Branch; and as national geotechnical policy advisor in the Civil Works Branch in 2021.
He said one of his first assignments as geotechnical engineer in Engineering Division’s Geotechnical & Coastal Branch was the Chicagoland Underflow Plan (CUP) - O’Hare (Majewski) Reservoir project. This was the first of the CUP projects that also include McCook and Thornton reservoirs. This project serves the area north of O’Hare Airport and provides flood relief from combined sewer overflows to several northwest communities. His involvement began soon after authorization, being assigned to lead the site investigation, design the groundwater protection system using a geomembrane liner and underdrain, and was the first use of roller compacted concrete in the Chicago District.
He said that the CUP-O’Hare and CUP-McCook reservoirs are special because he was involved in a variety of ways - first as a geotechnical engineer working to determine the site characteristics and design of the various project features, then as the engineering manager (aka lead engineer) to see these projects move from concept to construction, and then continued to see how each performed as he and his team conducted inspections through the ICW Program. Also, both projects were recognized by the Illinois Section – American Society of Engineers as the projects of the year, with the CUP-O’Hare Reservoir receiving the award in 1997, and the CUP-McCook Reservoir in 2018.
“They are great examples of what the Chicago District can accomplish, of the innovative solutions and advances of technology we were able to implement, and of the enormous benefit they provide the communities we serve,” he said. “Beyond the projects, I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to work in this great district and the honor to have been able to lead the Geotech group for so many years.”
Rochford has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana and attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
When asked what advice he would give a new Corps employee, he said to take a chance, but also take responsibility. And, professionally, to keep learning, earn a degree and professional license, and give back when you can.
“I recognize how fortunate I have been in working in the Chicago District during the length of my career so far, and the incredible projects we have created for the region we serve,” Rochford said. “I also have been extremely honored to have been able to lead all the exceptional individuals in the Geotech Section. The district has a great future with the new areas we are able to support. And since I can’t resist, I must end with our motto, ‘Essayons,’ - because we make a difference when we do.”