U.S. dam safety program approves research projects

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Dam Safety Program is pursuing new projects to expand dam safety research to other institutions and professionals performing research in the field.

In one project, researchers are analyzing indirect means of assessing conditions within embankment dams. The U.S. Army Engineering Research Development Center (ERDC) is conducting that work, to determine the best methods for finding seepage and seepage-induced voids. Phase I of the project already is complete. It consisted of a literature and case history study. Following completion of the current analysis, Phase II, a third phase will involve field testing of select methodologies.

In another project, researchers are analyzing state dam safety programs. ERDC is collecting and analyzing performance data from state dam safety programs. Information is being compiled into a document that contains individual state reports, and lists of states showing the greatest improvements in budget, number of inspections, and number of completed emergency action plans.

�Best practices� guidance being developed

Other researchers are preparing a technical manual, �Best Practices for Design and Construction of Outlet Works Energy Dissipaters.� The manual will present results from a Bureau of Reclamation study on the use of outlet works energy dissipaters. Topics to be covered include: existing designs; construction techniques; hydraulic and erosion problems; inspection frequency; repair techniques; vandalism; and public safety.

Researchers also are preparing “best practices” guidance for monitoring, measuring, and evaluating seepage through and beneath embankment dams. The initial phase of the project, being done by the ERDC, involves surveying methods and knowledge applicable to seepage monitoring and measurement. The work will look at case studies and experiences from the Corps, BuRec, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, state dam safety agencies, industry, private practice, and academia.

In another project, researchers are developing guidance for design and installation of granular filters within embankment dams. ERDC is conducting that project, intended to provide guidance in the design and construction of filters for control of pore pressures and control of migration of soil particles in small to moderate-sized dams.

Researchers also are investigating best practices for the operation, inspection, and maintenance of gates. ERDC is studying case histories and experiences of federal and state dam safety agencies and private dam owners to compare and contrast methods of operations and maintenance and their cost-effectiveness. It then will develop recommendations for effective methods for small to moderate-sized embankment dams.

The National Dam Safety Program was created more than 25 years ago to protect Americans from dam failure. It is a partnership of states, federal agencies, and others that encourages individual and community responsibility for dam safety.

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