Dam Safety and Security

CDA forms working group on dam design and construction

The Canadian Dam Association has created a Working Group on Design and Construction to address the issues of design and construction of dams and how the subject is covered by the current Dam Safety Guidelines and associated Technical Bulletins.

The need to complement existing documents, including bulletins published by the International Commission on Large Dams, will be examined.

Outreach to an audience in the dam industry, which may not currently possess the in-depth knowledge to operate dams or address technical issues, and in particular to enlighten them as to their responsibilities, is viewed by CDA as a valuable service to members, but the subject matter may be of interest to a wider sector, CDA says.

A kickoff meeting for this group was held during the 2014 CDA Annual Conference in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Current group members include representatives from power utilities, consulting engineering firms, Provincial Ministries and a mining company. The association says a few additional group members from regulators, small dam owners and contractors would be welcomed.

CDA provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and experience in the fields of dam safety, public safety around dams and protection of the environment.

USDA commits 3 million to dam rehab, assessment program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will invest US3 million in the rehabilitation and assessment of dams across the country to improve both infrastructure safety and water supply consistency.

“Millions of people depend on watersheds and dams for protection from floods and to provide safe drinking water,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “With a changing and shifting climate, dams are also vital to holding stores of water for use during drought. By investing in this critical infrastructure, we are helping to ensure a safe, resilient environment for agricultural producers and residents of rural America.”

The investment follows President Barack Obama’s 2014 call for federal agencies to increase funding for infrastructure rehabilitation and development, which aims to spur both economic growth and job creation.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) said it would also use the funding to support changes made in 2014 to the Watershed Rehabilitation Program. With many western states currently experiencing historical dry spells, USDA said half of this year’s dam assessments would be used to study the feasibility of using watershed rehabilitation funds to mitigate drought through use of existing infrastructure.

The funding will help pay for nearly 50 rehabilitation projects and 100 NRCS dam assessments spread across 13 states.

Overall, America’s watershed projects provide about $2.2 billion in annual benefits from reduced flooding and erosion damages, according to the USDA, as well as providing for recreation, water supply and wildlife habitat.

Barge strikes lock at Racine Locks and Dam, with 48-MW hydro plant

A riverboat towing eight barges loaded with coal struck the entrance to the lock at the Racine Locks and Dam, on the Ohio River between Ohio and West Virginia, on Saturday, April 11.

According to news sources, the riverboat ran into the “bull nose” portion of the lock, which is the tip of the concrete barrier separating the locks from the dam portion of the structure. Four barges loaded with coal broke apart. Two were recovered immediately but a third slipped under a gate that had been raised due to high water, and that barge sank downriver. The fourth barge was missing and workers were trying to determine its location.

River traffic was stopped until late Sunday so authorities could assess the damage and look for the missing barge. However, it is not clear if the missing barge was indeed located. The Ohio River was above flood stage at the time of the accident, and swift currents pose a hazard to navigation by making it difficult to control the direction of the tow.

The locks and dam are owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through its Huntington District. The dam has a top length of 1,173 feet. It features eight tainter gates. The Corps is working to determine if the missing barge caused any damage to the locks and dam structure.

American Electric Power Company owns and operates a hydroelectric generating plant on the Ohio abutment of Racine Dam. The 48-MW facility operates 24 hours a day as run-of-river conditions permit. The facility began operating in 1983.

The riverboat was owned and operated by AEP, and the accident investigation is focusing on that company, according to The Daily Sentinel.

Two workers missing after crane accident at Amistad Dam

Two employees of the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission are missing after a crane accident occurred on Wednesday, April 29 at Amistad Dam.

According to a press release from IBWC, the workers were performing maintenance, pressure-washing gate No. 2 on the downstream side, when they fell into the water.

Initial reports indicate that a crane at the top of the dam was being used to lower to workers in a basket when the crane tipped, causing the basket to fall into the water. Water is estimated to be 25 to 30 feet deep in that area, and initial efforts by swimmers to reach the basket were unsuccessful. Because of ongoing safety concerns related to the crane, divers have not been able to enter the water to reach the basket.

Personnel from the IBWC headquarters in El Paso, Texas, have been dispatched to investigate the accident, and all crane operations have been suspended.

Amistad Dam is an international dam across the Rio Grande River at Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila, Mexico. It impounds water for two powerhouses, each with a capacity of 66 MW, one in the U.S. and one in Mexico.

IBWC is responsible for applying the boundary and water treaties between the U.S. and Mexico, including operating and maintaining Amistad Dam.

Corps awards contract for surveying work at several dams

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a contract worth US$5 million to Geo Consultants LLC to perform foundation pressure relief well and geophysical survey services at civil works projects in its Great Lakes and Ohio River Division.

Geo Consultants will perform design, studies, geophysical surveys, sampling, testing, permit procurement and other activities related to relief, extraction and monitoring wells. The award is an indefinite-delivery contract with a base period and four option periods.

The Corps is also planning to hire a company to provide repair, maintenance and construction services to large civil projects including flood control and hydroelectric dams, river navigation facilities, maintenance and office facilities, roads, recreation facilities and river levees. The work mostly will be performed in the Walla Walla District in six states generaally situationed in the Snake River drainage.

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