Mike Ramirez, PE, was the project manager for the Canal Tunnel project.

The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Texas has chosen Parkhill, Smith & Cooper’s Canal Water Treatment Plant Discharge Transmission Main project as the gold medal recipient for the 2020 Engineering Excellence Awards in the water and wastewater category. As a result of receiving this prestigious state-level award, this project is also in the running for the ACEC Grand Conceptor Award at the national level for spring 2020.

The Robertson Umbenhauer Water Treatment Plant, also referred to as the Canal Water Treatment Plant, has been in service for 75 years. The plant located in Downtown El Paso is positioned between the Rio Grande River and a BNSF Railway railyard. Abandoned pipelines mixed in with active lines over the 100-year life of the railway made infrastructure improvements near the plant a challenge. Potential issues of the aging infrastructure needed to be resolved, so El Paso Water decided to replace existing transmission lines from the water treatment plant and build a new pump station.

PSC worked alongside BRH Garver as the design partner on this design-build project. PSC also provided site supervision and contract administration. An Akkerman tunnel-boring machine, nicknamed “Robbie” by El Paso Water in honor of the Robertson Umbenhauer WTP’s 75th anniversary, installed Permalock steel-casing pipe. This steel-casing pipe replaced the steel fiber reinforced concrete pipe which had been in service for 75 years. For this comprehensive project, a 66” diameter, 570’ long tunnel was required to be tunnel-bored underneath 18 active tracks of the railyard. This project also required a second 315’ tunnel across Paisano Drive, a Texas Department of Transportation roadway. For additional consideration, the Border West highway project by TxDOT had overlapping traffic control for the duration of the project.


Parkhill, Smith & Cooper Inc. was established in 1945 in Lubbock, Texas and now has more than 350 employees in multiple offices across Texas and New Mexico. PSC is a multidisciplinary firm that provides comprehensive architectural and engineering design services for a multitude of projects in government, commercial and institutional sectors – including K-12 and higher education, public works, environmental, infrastructure, transportation, healthcare and church facilities. PSC’s internal resources include design professionals in architecture, civil engineering, interior design, landscape architecture, MEP engineering and structural engineering.

About the ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards

The Engineering Excellence Awards Competition has been held by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Texas since its inception in 1975 to honor and recognize outstanding achievements within the engineering community.

For the 2020 awards, the distinguished panel of judges from around the state selected 12 gold medal and six silver medal-winning projects in various engineering categories based on the innovative application of techniques, complexity, value to the engineering profession, social and economic considerations and how successfully the project met the needs of the client.