Louisiana Saves Big with Levee Inspection System Overhaul

Faced with an outdated, non-functioning legacy system, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development turned to a new system to more efficiently and cost-effectively manage the inspection and reporting process for levees in the state.

by / April 22, 2016

When it comes to ensuring the safety and reliability of levees, dams and reservoirs in Louisiana, "efficiency" is the magic word. That’s exactly why the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development recently transitioned to a new mobile solution to significantly enhance cost savings and inspections for nearly 4,000 miles of statewide levees. 

The Department of Transportation and Development is tasked with overseeing Louisiana’s demanding flood protection infrastructure, which requires regular intensive inspections and monitoring to prevent flood and damage risk. Faced with an outdated, non-functioning legacy system, the department turned to a new system last July to more efficiently and cost-effectively manage the inspection and reporting process. 

The legacy system utilized Trimble YUMA tablets, valued at about $6,000 each that required pricey annual software maintenance of approximately $18,000. After moving to the new system, called TerraGo Edge, the department now utilizes handheld Android tablets, which only cost about $200 each. The department also transitioned to a more cost-effective annual subscription at a fraction of the cost of its previous system, resulting in major annual savings. 

According to Doug Taylor, director of Dams, Levees and Reservoir Development, the new system is both more affordable and easier to use.

“They are much more efficient in the field,” he said. “The old screen was a lot smaller, and with these Android devices we use apps. From the field perspective, they are much more efficient.”

What’s more, the new system offers customizable forms to enhance the reporting process. To streamline communications, Taylor and his team have implemented a code system that correlates to common issues and suggested solutions identified during field inspections. Inspectors simply enter the designated code, and the forms are then automatically generated during the reporting process. The result? It cuts down on inspection times, and also standardizes communications and prevents human error. 

The partnership also has given TerraGo insights into ways the product can be improved to best meet their clients' needs.

“It’s more broadly applicable now to clients doing safety inspections like we’re seeing at the Department of Transportation and Development,” says Dave Gura, commercial account manager with TerraGo. “Some of the efficiencies have also impacted our others users. So it helps us refine the product for everyone.”

While the benefits are undeniable, the new system is still far from perfect. The database is now stored on TerraGo’s server, Taylor said, which means he no longer has immediate access to it. Instead, he has to export data to another portal and then import it into a reporting program he’s developed.

“It’s been a learning curve on our part because things don’t work exactly how I’d like them to work,” he said. “It’s just more of a process now. But the guys at TerraGo ... help us out. If we run into a problem, they’re right there.”

Julia McCandless Contributing Writer

Julia McCandless is a journalist passionate about finding the story and telling it well. She currently works as a freelance journalist and communications expert in Northern California, where she lives with her husband and son.

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