Reclamation's Pacific Northwest Region Selects Engineer of the Year at Grand Coulee Dam

Media Contact: John Redding, (208) 378-5212
Lynne Brougher, (509) 633-9503

For Release: December 12, 2011

Mike Strombach

The Bureau of Reclamation selected Mike Strombach, mechanical engineer, as the Pacific Northwest Region's Engineer of the Year for his efforts at introducing innovation and efficiency at Grand Coulee Dam located on the Columbia River in eastern Washington.

Strombach was recognized for his proactive approach to increasing operation efficiencies, improving safety throughout the Grand Coulee Project, and setting the standard for professionalism in the engineering organization.

"Innovation, personal creativity, breath of knowledge, and versatility are often used to describe mechanical engineers, and Mike Strombach exemplifies these traits in his work at Grand Coulee Dam," said Karl Wirkus, Pacific Northwest Regional Director.

In addition, Strombach developed a training session for incoming mechanical apprentices to improve their overall preventive maintenance skills. He is noted for inventing vortex generator/cavitation avoidance devices which are being tested inside scroll cases and turbine runners at the dam.

"Vortex generators are small fins, specially placed in a water flow path which causes the water to swirl. This action decreases the destructive effects of cavitation which erodes metal," explained Strombach.

His skills have attributed to the operational effectiveness of critical equipment such as pumps, motors, and compressors by analyzing equipment performance using vibration analysis, according to Doug Anderson, Supervisory Mechanical Engineer.

"Mike is unique in his ability to move cleanly and efficiently from problem identification to solution development no matter the complexity of the problem or size of the project," said Anderson.

Strombach is an active volunteer for community events and educational causes throughout the state. He and his wife, Sara, live in Electric City, Wash. They have four children and six grandchildren. During his free time, he enjoys music, reading up on current events, and discussing topics related to science and mathematics.

Grand Coulee Dam, completed in 1941, is a multi-purpose facility and a key feature of Reclamation's Columbia Basin Project. Power facilities at Grand Coulee Dam include 33 generators in three power plants, a pumping plant and three switchyards. The Project's rated electrical capacity is 6,809,000 kilowatts; making it the largest hydroelectric dam in the U.S., which also provides water to about 600,000 acres in the Columbia Basin Project.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.