Elected Technical Region Director

Portrait of Deborah Lee - blonde woman in blue suit jacket smiling at camera 

Vision statement

As a civil engineer with nearly 40 years of professional experience responsible for managing large-scale water resources infrastructure and environmental restoration, I would like to serve the ASCE Board of Direction as a Technical Region Director to preserve, promote and enhance the civil engineering profession. Through my experience, I have learned first-hand of the multiple challenges facing the profession: aging infrastructure and environmental challenges, a changing climate bringing increasing weather and climate disasters, a declining student enrollment, unsatisfactory retention of early career engineers, pay inequities, and a need to rapidly update the engineering curriculum and early experience to meet the needs already upon us to re-invent our infrastructure, with a new eye to social equity and justice.

As a woman who entered the profession when it was still considered a non-traditional career path, I not only found my way, but reached the highest level of Federal civil service. With the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), I became responsible for operating the largest flood control system on the planet and preserved the Nation’s multi-billion-dollar infrastructure investment during the Greater Mississippi River Flood of 2011 – the record to date.

In my current position with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), I direct an environmental research laboratory that conducts fundamental science, then transitions that science into applications for prediction. Under my tenure, a key achievement has been a forecast system to predict harmful algal blooms and hypoxia, protecting the drinking water supplies of Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio. But I am most personally proud of diversifying the staff; providing opportunities for under-represented students and early career professionals. Understanding the challenges I faced early in my career, I worked to lower the barriers for others while still ensuring the best-qualified were selected and then coached for career progression.

Despite the demands of my positions, I strive to give back to the civil engineering profession. Upon becoming a Diplomate of the American Academy of Water Resources Engineers, I served on the Board of Trustees in the positions of Trustee (2011 to 2013), President-elect, President, Past-President (2015-2018), and ex officio member (2020-2021). This encouraged me to be more involved in ASCE, and I was successfully elected to the Environmental Water Resources Institute (EWRI) Governing Board and served as Vice-President (2018-2019), President-elect (2019-2020), President (2020-2021), and Past President (2021-2022). These were the challenging years of the pandemic, requiring quick transformation to virtual meetings and conferences, while keeping the institute’s revenues stabilized. But I also saw the opportunity to connect EWRI to NOAA’s climate products and services, and linked the NOAA Climate Program Office with ASCE, resulting in a cooperative agreement to identify how NOAA's climate data can serve the needs of the engineering community. By accomplishing this climate change awareness, I helped foster the need for climate resilient engineering codes and standards. In recognition, I received the prestigious 2022 ASCE President’s Medal.

As I retire from federal service, I will have substantial time to serve as a Society Director, acting in the best interest of all ASCE members. My wide-ranging experience will allow me to represent the Institutes in a professional and informed manner. I will bring my extensive federal experience in legislation drafting assistance, the budget formulation process, and interacting with and briefing members of Congress, their committees and the Executive Branch. I will also bring my experience in diversity initiatives, retention of early-career engineers and my innovative thinking at the cross-roads of engineering and science. Priority issues I would like to address as an incoming Director would be improving civil engineering enrollment and retention, and addressing the challenge climate change poses to our infrastructure.

Biographical statement


  • Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, Major: Hydraulics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, 1984
  • Master of Science in Civil Engineering, Major: Hydraulics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, 1986
  • Completed all coursework for doctorate in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 1998

Work experience

  • Director, NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, 11/2014 to present
  • Acting Regional Business Director, USACE Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, 07/2013 to 07/2014
  • Chief, Water Management, USACE Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, 11/2005 to 11/2014
  • Hydraulic Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, 2001 to 2005
  • Hydrologist, NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) Ohio River Forecast Center, 1998 to 2001
  • Hydrologist, NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, 1991 to 1998
  • Hydraulic Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Detroit District, 1986 to 1991

ASCE involvement

Society level

  • President (2020-2021), Environmental Water Resources Institute, ASCE, President-elect (2019-2020), Vice-President (2018-2019), Past President (2021-2022)
  • Board of Trustees, American Academy of Water Resources Engineers, Trustee (2011 to 2013), President-elect, President, Past-President (2015-2018), ex officio member (2020-2021)
  • 2018 Key Note Speaker for EWRI Congress
  • Member, Environmental Water Resources Institute
  • Member, Coasts, Oceans, Ports and River Institute

Local level

  • Member, Michigan Section-Southeastern Branch
  • 2019 Invited Speaker, ASCE Region 3 Assembly, 20 Jul 2019.
  • Member, Ohio State University ASCE Student Chapter, 1981-1984

Other volunteer activities

  • Troop Leader, Girl Scouts of America, 2001-2012


  • ASCE President’s Medal, 2022
  • NOAA Research Diversity and Inclusion Award, 2017
  • USACE Superior Civilian Service Award, Regional Business Director, 2014
  • USACE Superior Civilian Service Award, Chief of Water Management, 2014
  • USACE Superior Civilian Service Award, Greater Mississippi River Basin Flood, 2011
  • National Weather Association, Larry R. Johnson Special Award (Ohio River Community Model), 2011
  • International Joint Commission Award of Merit for Professional Contribution, 2009
  • USACE Chief of Engineers Coin (LTG Strock) Presented for Emerging Leader, 2004
  • American Water Resources Association Best Paper Award, 1998