In a career that spans over 45 years, Alden’s Senior Technical Fellow, Charles “Chick” Sweeney, has made it official—his first day of retirement begins on November 28, 2019.

With projects that total well over 400, Chick’s duties have often involved the hydraulic design and analysis of civil works, including dams, fisheries facilities, hydroelectric, fossil fuel, and nuclear power plants. He’s also had a hand in flood control and irrigation projects, harbor facilities, river training works, and water supply and sewage treatment plants.  Chick is a recognized expert in applying field data collection programs and both physical and computer-based hydraulic models to solve facility site selection, design, and permitting problems.  In addition to all of that, he has been involved in many of the fish passage projects completed throughout the Pacific Northwest.    

To say he will be missed is an understatement.

Chick’s career began in 1974 as a Project Engineer for Western Canada Hydraulic Laboratories. In 1978, Delft Hydraulics joined with Western Canada to establish a lab in the U.S.; Chick became employee number one in their newly minted U.S. operations, Engineering Hydraulics, Inc., based in Longmont, Colorado, where he stayed until 1984. When the laboratory entity was sold in part to Northern Technical Services, Chick moved the hydraulic laboratory operations to the Seattle area. He continued with EHI, becoming President and Chief Engineer. Eventually, the laboratory would be acquired by ENSR. Through another series of name and ownership changes, Chick finally became a Senior Technical Fellow at Alden following the 2012 acquisition of AECOM’s hydraulic engineering and modeling operations in Redmond, Washington and Portland, Oregon.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Chick says he knew he wanted to be an engineer as early as the 7th grade. After earning his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, Chick went on to obtain his M.S. in Civil and Hydraulic Engineering from Colorado State University. Coincidently, one of the professors Chick had while at Colorado State was Dr. Johannes Gessler, the father of Alden’s Vice President, Dan Gessler.

As Chick neared the end of graduate school, he had about a half dozen different job offers to consider.  He ultimately accepted the position at Western Canada—the lowest paying offer, yet the one that interested him the most. Chick says he never regrets that decision.  He says, “My advice to any young engineer starting out is to follow the path that gets you most excited. I’m thankful to have been continuously affiliated with a lab offering hydraulic engineering consulting the entirety of my career—and I’ve never tired of helping clients, colleagues and friends all over the United States tackle their most challenging technical problems.”

Of the many projects in which he’s been involved, two of them were awarded the American Consulting Engineers Council Grand Conceptor Award: a selective water withdrawal tower and fish collector at Round Butte Dam and a removable spillway weir for fish passage at Lower Granite Dam—projects in which Chick was involved from “back of the napkin” stage of design through detailed design and hydraulic modeling, to construction and startup.  In 2015, Chick received the Northwest Hydroelectric Association (NWHA) Pamela E. Klatt award for outstanding service to the hydropower industry.

Upon announcing his retirement to Alden’s principals, Chick said, “I sincerely appreciate that Alden has allowed me to ease into retirement over the last several years  so I could continue to contribute to interesting projects with colleagues who are exceptional professionals and dear friends for great clients in the profession I chose over 45 years ago,”

He continues, “Alden has some truly gifted engineers that really understand the big picture. As trusted technical advisors to so many clients, we have shown over and over that we can solve problems, not just make models. It’s what makes Alden so special.”

On behalf of everyone at Alden, we thank Chick for his contributions to the industry, his mentoring and his friendship. We wish he and his wife much happiness in this next chapter, including the move back “home” to Indiana. Best of luck!

Want to share your memories or wish Chick well? Use the comments section below.