Dam Safety & Security

USDA, Middle Fork Irrigation District begin Clear Branch rehab

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently held a public meeting with the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon’s Middle Fork Irrigation District (MFID) to begin the planning process to rehabilitate Clear Branch Dam.

The dam, located southwest of Parkdale in Hood River County, was built in 1968 and impounds Laurance Lake, which provides water for more than 8,000 acres of cropland as well as supporting recreational activities.

The dam received federal funding in 2014, and it is being used by MFID and others to rehabilitate the dam, which has neared the end of its 50-year design life.

Meetings held in August were not only intended to inform the public about infrastructure and dam safety concerns, but also to allow shareholders that included individuals, agencies, tribes, organizations and others to voice their opinions about Clear Branch Dam’s future.

NRCS will now develop an assessment that evaluates several potential courses of action that MFID could pursue in order to meet current environmental, engineering, seismic and safety standards.

USU’s Blake Tullis wins ASDSO’s Terry L. Hampton Medal

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials has named Utah State University Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Dr. Blake Tullis, its 2016 recipient of the Terry L. Hampton Medal.

The award, presented in September as part of ASDSO’s 2016 Dam Safety conference, was established in 2007 and honors its namesake’s accomplishments in the fields of hydrology and hydraulics.

Utah State University professor Blake Tullis has been awarded the Association of State Dam Safety Officials’ Terry L. Hampton Medal for his work in hydrology and hydraulics.
Utah State University professor Blake Tullis has been awarded the Association of State Dam Safety Officials’ Terry L. Hampton Medal for his work in hydrology and hydraulics.

USU describes Tullis as a “pioneer of labyrinth design,” which increases hydropower output and irrigation capacity and improves municipal use without affecting dam safety.

Tullis is also an associate director of the Utah Water Research Laboratory (UWRL), which specializes in hydraulics and fluid mechanics.

Corps awards $10 million contract to test tainter gate anchors

FDH Velocitel has received a five-year, $10 million contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide architectural and engineering services to complete testing of tension in tainter gate trunnion girder anchor rods.

Tainter gate anchorage systems, which contain post-tensioned anchor rods, have been used in major U.S. dams since the 1960s, according to FDH Velocitel. In addition, the company says the number of rod failures has grown recently. About 150 dams across the U.S. used the post-tensioned anchor rods, with more than 50,000 post-tensioned anchor rods in Corps inventory, according to an FDH Velocitel press release.

FDH Velocitel will use its proprietary nondestructive testing method to enable the Corps to safely and effectively manage its aging inventory of post-tensioned anchor rods.

Development of this technology was made possible through legislation supported by Congressman David Price, FDH Velocitel says, which helped form the government-industry partnership that enabled the deployment of this test method on Corps dams.

“For the past four years, we have worked in partnership with the USACE Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, MS, to develop and deploy this service – which reduces testing costs by up to 90%, while significantly improving safety,” said Robert Lindyberg, PhD, PE, vice president of technology/R&D for FDH Velocitel.

Texas receives US$5.2 million to repair 26 flood control dams

The Texas State Soil & Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) received US$5.2 million from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as part of the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program to repair 26 flood control dam structures across six counties in Texas.

The federal funds will be put toward flood control dams that need vital repairs as a result of the heavy rainfall events of May 2015.

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Dam Safety & Security


Reclamation welcomes public to Minidoka Dam spillway reopening

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation celebrated the completion of a new spillway at the 28.5-MW Minidoka plant with a public ceremony in May.

The dam — located on the Snake River in Idaho — and its Allen E. Inman power plant have been undergoing a four-year rehabilitation that straightened the spillway and replaced two irrigation headworks.

Record Steel and Construction was awarded a US$21.32 million contract to perform the work in September 2011.

The dam is an 86-foot-tall zoned earthfill structure that began operating in 1909. Reclamation said concrete of the 2,237-foot-long wood and concrete spillway, stoplog structure piers, and canal headworks deteriorated to the point where it could fail soon. In addition, the headworks for the canals that run on the north and south sides of the dam show visible signs of deterioration.

The project added 12 radial-controlled control gates and eliminated an aging stop-log water control system. The dam serves the Burley and Minidoka irrigation districts, which together provided 42% of the project’s cost.

Quebec commissioner disappointed by dam safety efforts

A June 2015 report released by the Quebec Commissioner of Sustainable Development, M. Jean Cinq-Mars, said, “The Environment Department has not done its work to ensure that the province’s dams are safe.”

Cinq-Mars said the department is missing inspection reports from about a quarter of the 5,900 dams that are targeted by inspection law. About half of the dams are used for recreation purposes, while most of the others are used to produce electricity.

There are 758 dams behind in inspections and maintenance, which are the responsibility of the department, the report concluded. “As it stands now, there could be some dams that will break,” said Cinq-Mars during a news conference after the report’s release.

Local reports indicate the commissioner made his determination in light of a 2002 law enacted in Quebec after the Saguenay floods in the summer of 1996 and findings from the floods’ subsequent investigative reports. Two reservoirs in the region of the Saguenay River Fjord overflowed during a sustained downpour and unleashed an estimated four times the normal amount of water flow. Eleven people were killed, more than 16,000 were evacuated and 7,000 families suffered a total of more than C$1.5 billion in property damage.

Heavy rains cause a low-hazard dam failure in Texas

Published reports indicate that after hours of heavy rains on May 27, officials estimate more than 35 million gallons of water overtopped the spillways of the earthen dam holding back Bastrop State Park Lake in Texas, and the dam failed.

Water drained into the Tahitian Village development near Bastrop, according to Bastrop County Emergency Management. A portion of Texas State Highway 71 in the area flooded and water moved into Tahitian Village via Copperas Creek, both immediately south of the dam failure.

Bastrop Dam, classified by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) as a low-hazard dam, was first constructed in 1913 and 1914 and received improvements in 1934, according to Steve Lightfoot, a Texas Parks and Wildlife spokesperson.

No one was killed or injured.

According to National Inventory of Dams data, Bastrop Dam’s last inspection took place in 2005. But in Texas, thousands of aging dams are exempt from regular state agency inspection.

TCEQ, according to published reports in the Statesman, “conducts the bulk of all dam inspections in Texas, but more than 3,200 Texas dams are exempt from TCEQ inspection, said Warren Samuelson, dam safety program manager at the agency.” TCEQ has about 4,000 dams under its jurisdiction.

River bank stabilization is part of a larger spillway project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Sacramento District has awarded a US$1.8 million contract to Newland Entities of Marysville, Calif., to stabilize 400 feet of the American River’s right bank using 32-foot-long rock bolts.

The Sacramento District has been overseeing construction of an auxiliary spillway at 198.72-MW Folsom project to address hydrologic risk identified by the Bureau of Reclamation’s Safety of Dams program.

The dam’s spillway would allow Reclamation to do two things: make more controlled water releases, compared to its current ability, from Folsom Dam and during large storms release water sooner its management process.

The stabilization project was scheduled to begin in June and end by December.

Storm releases from Folsom Dam’s auxiliary spillway enter the American River with increasing forces and high angles, even after passing a series of engineered water-slowing features. The combined flows could destabilize part of the riverbank making it vulnerable to erosion.

Crews will use ropes, climbing harnesses and platforms to hang above the river and drill as many as 48 rock bolts into the bank, while also reinforcing some areas with concrete to further stabilize the slopes.