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Michael Moreau


Michael J. Moreau



BS - Civil Engineering (1984, University of Maine)

MS - Civil Engineering (1992, University of Maine)

Engineering Career

My career as a civil engineer has been extremely rewarding. I have never worried about finding work despite economic downturns, company buyouts, etc. I did not have a clear engineering career direction in mind after high school, but I recognized my aptitude and enjoyment of math and science in high school, as well as, a growing appreciation for the outdoors. I worked in a number of occupations in the ensuing years after high school including manufacturing, agricultural, and custodial positions. These work experiences opened my eyes to the need for a more stable, long term profession which would require higher education.

Consequently, I entered the Air Force to take time to do some career research and to fund my college goal through the GI Bill. While in the military, I determined that civil engineering was the best fit for my primary interests of math, science and the outdoors. After receiving my Honorable Discharge in 1978, I went to work as a survey rodman for a small civil design firm called Moulton Engineering in Kittery, Maine for most of a year. The experience confirmed that civil engineering would satisfy my aspirational professional goals. Consequently in the fall of 1979, I began my undergraduate studies at York County Community College, followed by one year at University of Southern Maine. I also married and started raising a family in 1981. This slowed my education plans somewhat but I graduated from University of Maine at Orono (UMO) with a BS Civil Engineering in 1984. I had studied broadly across several sub-disciplines, environmental, structural, and geotechnical to increase my chances for landing a job. But I have to say that my soils engineering professor, Tom Sandford (retired in 2016), instilled a strong interest in me for geotechnical engineering. I landed a job with a small geo-environmental firm, Robert G. Gerber, Inc., a company that I eventually became part owner of. At that time, I began my career as many young engineers do, performing construction resident engineer functions and lots of soil testing. Within a few years, I saw that an advanced degree in geotechnical engineering would be very beneficial to enhance my technical skills and to develop a better understanding of certain aspects of my chosen discipline. While working fulltime, I began my graduate studies in 1988 and achieved a MS Civil Engineering from UMO in 1992. Of course, my graduate studies and thesis were focused in geotechnical engineering. Like Tom before him, Professor Dana Humphrey strengthened my interest and skills in geotechnical investigations, analysis and design during my graduate studies. I consider myself lucky to have been taught by two very capable geotechnical engineering professionals.

Professional Activities

ASCE Activities:
ASCE was an important part of my middle career period.  I held every Maine Section Board position, culminating as President during our Maine Section 50th anniversary year 1999-2000.  One of my most rewarding experiences was conceiving the idea for the Maine Historical Civil Engineering Landmarks brochure.  As part of our pre-50th anniversary activities, the Maine Section designated several State and National Civil Engineering Sites in accordance with ASCE requirements.  Through the process, it occurred to me that it would be great to have a brochure describing all of the historic civil engineering landmarks in Maine that the Section had commemorated.

The brochure would have a short description of the unique engineering characteristics of the site and provide sufficient location information to enable individuals to visit the sites.  The brochure, I thought, could be distributed at all of the State of Maine tourist information centers!  I must give thanks to several members who were Maine Section Board officers at the time who were also inspired by my idea and provided significant support in the development of the brochure:  Phil Dunn, who was the Maine Section 50th and ASCE 150th Celebrations Chair, Jim Wendel, History & Heritage Chair, and Greg Bake, Secretary at the time and later became History & Heritage Chair.  Phil, Greg and I would also go on to add several new historic civil engineering sites over the next few years.  I worked with the former MaineDOT Photo Lab, now the Creative Services Office, to develop the first proof copy of the brochure which was soon professionally printed.  Here again I was assisted by another individual, Calvin Yeaton, of the MaineDOT Creative Services Office over the next few years.  As we commemorated additional historic civil engineering sites, we would provide the write-ups and photos and Cal would update the brochure for the next printing.

In recent years, the brochure has been used by the Maine Section as the basis for a History and Heritage Scavenger Hunt.  Section members form teams, visit and photograph the sites, and are judged on creativity of photos, age range of team members and so on.  I have always felt, and still do, that the brochure was a fitting tribute to the colorful and talented civil engineers who have lived and worked in Maine since the 1700's!  This effort by far was my most memorable and rewarding experience as a Maine Section member.

Company and Project Activities:
I have been fortunate to have worked on a number of large commercial client projects in consulting, as well as, significant transportation and utility projects at MaineDOT.  I began my career in 1984 at the firm Robert G. Gerber, Inc., where I eventually became part owner.  For many years, I was involved with the subsurface investigations, remediation studies and slope stability analyses for the Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock, Maine, and especially after the landfill failure which occurred in 1989.  Significant subsequent subsurface investigations, analyses and design recommendations were necessary to remediate the weakened soils, cap the failure area and plan continued landfill operations in adjacent areas.  Gerber was the first consulting firm in Maine to use 3-D slope stability modeling software in the state as part of that project.

Over the years, I've conducted a number of subsurface investigations, slope stability analyses, foundation analyses and design for paper mill facilities and large commercial warehouses.  At the former Georgia Pacific Mill in Baileyville, Maine, I performed slope stability analysis to assist their landfill expansion plans.  I've conducted foundation investigations, analysis and design for very large boiler foundations, liquid storage tanks and heavily loaded warehouse foundations.  In the 90's, I was appointed lead geotechnical engineer for the LL Bean warehouse and distribution center expansions in Freeport, Maine.  That project consisted of investigations and foundation recommendations for a single-story, 200,000 ft2 reserve storage warehouse and a two-story 62,500 ft2 returns center.  Both buildings were designed for heavy floor load capacities.

I left Gerber after the company was purchased by a Canadian firm in 1997.  I then became Engineering Director for Hillier & Associates, Inc., in Augusta, Maine.  My responsibilities included business development and contract administration, as well as, geotechnical and construction project management.  I conducted a number of notable projects while at Hillier including the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline corridor study where we performed pre-blast surveys and blast monitoring evaluations for damage claims.  Working with my former client, Georgia Pacific, I devised and monitored instrumentation programs for unstable foundations, slopes and staged construction using piezometers, inclinometers, settlement platforms and electronic data loggers.  Also for Georgia Pacific, I conducted the subsurface explorations and, with Schnabel Foundation Company, a design-build geo-construction firm, designed a tangent pile tie-back wall.  The tangent pile tie-back wall was used to support a 200-foot diameter wastewater clarifier perched at the top of a steep slope above a spill-prevention, pollution control pond.

I left Hillier in 2000 to take a geotechnical engineer position with MaineDOT.  While at MaineDOT, I've conducted many bridge foundation and highway embankment investigations, analyses and designs.  Several of those were particularly interesting projects.  I highlight two of them in the "most rewarding" section below.  I currently hold the Utility Engineer position at MaineDOT where I oversee the utility coordination for all MaineDOT projects state-wide.

As the State Utility Engineer, I have been able, with the help of the MaineDOT Legal Office, to influence and revise Maine statutes to clarify utility entity responsibilities in all public ways.  I've also periodically updated the Utility Accommodation Rules which govern the permitting and placement of utility facilities within the state's Right-Of-Way, and I've written many MaineDOT utility policies addressing utility construction within MaineDOT contracts, facility adjustments for paving projects, protection of MaineDOT-owned underground electric conduits, accommodating wireless technology in the state ROW and more.

Other Professional activities:

  • Life Member, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1981 to Present (Elected 2019)
  • Life Member, Maine Section, American Society of Civil Engineers, Held all Leadership Board Positions, Becoming President in 1999-2000, the Maine Section 50th Anniversary Year
  • Past member, Northeast States Geotechnical Engineers
  • Past member, ASFE, Association of Soil and Foundation Engineers (Now GBA, Geoprofessional Business Association)
  • Graduate of the ASFE, Association of Soil and Foundation Engineers (Now GBA, Geoprofessional Business Association) Professional Liability Loss Prevention Program (Predecessor to the Fundamentals of Professional Practice Program)
  • Member, FHWA Railroad Community Group
  • Manager, MaineDOT Utility Task Force whose members include state-wide utility company/district representatives, municipal officials and numerous public agency employees

Technical/Professional Papers:

  • Moreau, Michael J., P.E., (1988).  "What Architects and Engineers Consider to be the Most Significant Challenges to Professionalism in the Years Ahead."  Report Written for the ASFE Institute of Professional Practice (Now GBA, Geoprofessional Business Association).
  • Moreau, Michael J., P.E., (1990).  "Maine Engineers Face Three Prominent Challenges." February Engineer's Week Supplement to the Bangor Daily News, pp. 12E-13E.
  • Moreau, Michael J., P.E., (1990).  "Challenges to the Profession."  February Engineer's Week Supplement to the Maine Sunday Telegram, p. 4H.
  • Moreau, Michael J., P.E., & Maguire, Kathleen, P.E., (2001).  "MaineDOT Field Vane Shear Testing, Recommended Practice and Procedure Improvements."  White Paper Written for MaineDOT Bureau of Project Development Managers.
  • Moreau, Michael J., P.E., (2005).  "I-295, Commercial Street Connector, Design-Build Lessons Learned."  Presented at the 46th Annual Conference of the Northeast States Geotechnical Engineers.

Funny Stories

My funny story comes from my early days performing construction inspection at a large paper mill landfill site.  One afternoon I was conducting some soil lab tests in the project trailer.  The tests took most of the afternoon, but I walked over the site late in the day to monitor construction progress.

One part of the landfill was a roughly 20-foot deep waste cell with embankments constructed from glacial till soils.  I had walked that part of the site in late morning before conducting my soils tests that afternoon.  In the morning, I saw that the crew was constructing the embankment in accordance with specifications, that is, placing and compacting the soil in 12-inch lifts.

When I returned late in the day, there was a 3-4 foot high fill advancement face.  It was obvious to me that the 3-4 foot layer had been placed all at once.  I found the superintendent and told him what was going on and that the fill had to be removed and placed in accordance with the specifications.  The superintendent and I walked to fill placement area and he observed the conditions.  He told me "there is no f*&%(%$ way that all of that fill was placed in one lift."  I told him I knew it was placed in one lift because of the visible moisture condition of the fill.

He said "I'll bet you a six-pack of beer that that is not one lift."  I said "you're on" and he was just ornery enough to have the dozer operator cut a slot down through the fill with the corner of his blade.  After a while, we finally saw the dry former fill surface . . .  roughly 4 feet below the surface of the newly placed fill.  The superintendent shook his head and had the fill removed.  He made good on his bet and he never questioned me again.

Most Rewarding Career Moment

There is nothing quite like seeing something you've designed for a specific purpose work just about as perfectly as you could expect.  I've had two such instances in my career.

The first is a slope-stabilization soldier pile wall used to prevent a slope from full catastrophic failure.  In the early 2000's, a slope failure occurred in a portion of Middle River Road which intersects with Route 2 in Greenbush, Maine.  This brought attention to a nearby 425-foot long section of Route 2 which lies approximately 35 feet above and parallel to the Penobscot River.  After the Middle River Road failure, a shallow scarp that pre-dated the Middle River Road failure was observed behind the guardrail along a portion of the Route 2 section.  This made it obvious that this slope might fail in the future, but predicting when is tough to do.  The primary instability force at work is erosion of the slope toe in this area.  Consequently, I designed a soldier pile and lagging wall to support the highway against a slope failure.

In 2006 after heavy rains, the slope failed beyond the soldier pile wall, but the wall held the highway embankment intact.  Traffic was diverted over a short detour to protect the traveling public while contractors constructed slope repairs which have remained in place to present day, November 2021.

Another instance was the reconstruction of Route 9 in TWP 24 in 2000.  The contractor encountered a section underlain by peat.  Peat of course has no strength under load.  The contractor removed as much of the peat that could be reached with their excavation equipment and proceeded to construct the highway embankment.  The following spring, a settlement sag appeared leaving the embankment roughly 16 inches below original grade in a section about 165 feet long.  I designed a peat blasting program which included drilling through the embankment to determine the thickness of the remaining peat layer.  Blasting a peat layer will displace the peat and densify the fill that drops into the void left by the displaced peat.

I estimated that a 5-foot surcharge fill would provide enough fill material to fill the void left by the displaced peat.  Bore holes were drilled on a 5 X 5.5 meter grid through and around the surcharge, 5 rows wide across the highway embankment and 10 rows along the highway alignment, 50 holes total.  Each hole was cased with 8-inch PVC pipe to allow the casing to be filled with powder charges later.  The amount of explosive charges placed in each hole was based on the thickness of the peat layer I observed at each location.  A total of just under 2 tons of dynamite was used across the 50 holes.  The road was closed between 12 midnight and 5:00 in the morning to conduct the blast.  The holes were loaded and the blast occurred at 12:40am.

When we brought the portable light units back to the area, the blasting crew said that this was as nearly a perfect blast as you can achieve based on the depressed cones at the powder hole locations.  Bulldozers on standby immediately began what little regrading was necessary to get the embankment back to grade after the blast and the road was open to traffic at 3:10 am.  The highway embankment has performed satisfactorily with minimal settlement since 2001.


Electronics, camping, hiking, fishing, skiing, guitar, spending time with family.