Douglas G. Price, whose engineering career began as Australia's massive Snowy Mountains hydroelectric project got under way in 1950 and ended nearly four decades later when he was CEO of the global design firm spawned from what became the country's largest-ever infrastructure program, died on July 10 in Armidale, New South Wales. He was 87.
Price was a key project leader on the 23-year, billion-dollar-plus project known as the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Located in Australia's southeast, it was one of the world's largest and most intricate multipurpose water projects.
Including construction of 17 large dams and 145 kilometers of tunnels, 2,000 km of roads and 80 km of aqueducts, it collected 2 million acre-ft of water per year from the Australian Alps and fed it through nine hydroelectric plants. This generated more than 4,000 MW of power before releasing the water to irrigate the continent's dry interior.
The project involved work by more than 100,000 workers from 30 countries.
In 1999, ENR named it one of the world's Top 125 projects over the previous 125 years; it had been recognized two years earlier by the American Society of Civil Engineers as an international historical civil engineering landmark, joining the Panama Canal and Eiffel Tower.
Price joined the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority after gaining his civil engineering degree. He honed his skills as a dam-builder, in a career that included a 1950s stint in the U.S. with contractors who had built Boulder and Hoover dams, according to an obituary released by SMEC, the current name of the design firm spawned from the Snowy Mountains work.
Price then was asked to join the first of several Australian government overseas aid projects that included construction of large dams on the Mekong River in Cambodia and roadbuilding in Thailand. He was named the authority's assistant commissioner in 1966.
Six years later, he became the first CEO and managing director of the newly-formed Snowy Mountains Engineering Co., a government-owned firm that specialized in water, power and road engineering and was working in 42 countries in Asia and Africa by the 1980s. Price held those positions until his retirement in 1988.
The firm was privatized and sold to its employees in 1993. It then became SMEC, of which Andrew Goodwin was elevated to CEO this past summer.
Price earned Australian engineering's highest award, the Peter Nicol Russell Memorial Medal Career Achievement Award, in 1984. In 2001, he was named chairman of SMEC's new foundation, which provides small-scale grants to communities in need, says the obituary.
"Doug’s … highly professional leadership style shaped SMEC to become the highly successful multinational, multidisciplinary consultancy it is today," says the firm, which adds that he "possessed the skills of a seasoned diplomat … and the keen nose of an entrepreneurial businessman who built an organization that still prospers today."
SMEC ranks at No. 74 on ENR's list of The Top 150 Global Design Firms, reporting $437.9 million in 2013 revenue.