Originally created 05/10/04

Dam engineer's CSRA contribution was mighty



The Augusta Chronicle and reporter Robert Pavey should be commended on the articles commemorating the 50th anniversary of Clarks Hill Dam and many positive benefits that this project brought to the community. Of more than 2,000 people who worked on the project, no one had a greater impact on the CSRA than its principal designer, Josef C. Patchen.

In 1945 the Army Corps of Engineers contracted with the Boston engineering firm Chas. T. Main for design of the project. Main made inquiries to the Tennessee Valley Authority seeking a lead project engineer. He was directed to a 28-year-old engineer who had experienced a leading role in the design of TVA dams, and was involved with war efforts at Oak Ridge. Patchen foresaw the post-war economic boom and planned to pursue a career in private practice, but agreed to undertake the Clarks Hill assignment.

Patchen personally performed schematic designs for several alternatives, economic analyses and critical stability analyses. He assembled and managed the design team and provided detailed oversight to nearly every aspect of design development. ...

The engineering talent on the Clarks Hill project and integrated into Patchen's engineering practice was ideal for serving the growing needs of post-war America and a South in transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy. It was natural for Patchen to promote the benefits of the Augusta area to leading industrialists, and to this end he founded the Committee of One Hundred, a group of area businessmen who shared his progressive vision for a vitalized area economy.

The success of the committee led to phenomenal growth in the CSRA and a diversified economic base anchored by some of the world's leading manufacturers. Today probably more than 10,000 jobs can be directly attributed to businesses that located here through the efforts of Patchen and the Committee of One Hundred ... The benefits that our community has derived from the Clarks Hill project are immense, as was the vision and Patchen's leadership.

Lee E. Wheatley, P.E., Augusta