David M. Schaaf, P.E., Jeff Schaefer, Ph.D., P.E., P.G
The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has an inventory of over 600 dams. The main purpose of many of these dams is for flood control, but there are a significant number of dams primarily used for navigation. Additional benefits at many of these projects are provided through hydropower generation, recreation, and irrigation for farmers. Many of the dams are quite old and represent an aging infrastructure across the inventory. In addition, leaner budgets relative to the need for repairs across the aging system require that USACE invest wisely in order to efficiently use available funds to reduce the greatest risks across the inventory. Previously, individual projects with perceived deficiencies were evaluated separately by the responsible district. This evaluation was not compared in any programmatic way to other USACE dams being evaluated for deficiencies.
In order to improve the process of making risk-based decisions across the entire spectrum of USACE dams, the Screening for Portfolio Risk Assessment (SPRA) for the USACE Dam Safety Program was initiated during the summer of 2005. This effort represents the first level of a multiple phased effort to bring full scale risk assessment to the decision-making regarding making investment decisions associated with dam safety by linking engineering reliability with economic and life loss impacts on a relative scale. The SPRA effort involved the development of a tool for evaluating the relative life and economic risk of dam failures for a variety of deficiencies across the inventory of USACE dams. This paper will focus on the basic aspects of the evaluation tool as well as the process by which the screening was completed.
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The Koralpe hydropower scheme is a major development on the Feistritzbach tributary of the River Drau to utilize water in a 50 MW powerhouse located in the south-eastern Carinthia, Europe. The Soboth reservoir is situated 735 m higher in a narrow valley and is created by the 85 m high Feistritzbach dam which was constructed near the border of Austria and Slovenia between 1988 and 1990. This rockfill dam is the latest addition to KELAG’s more than 15 structures and is sealed by an asphaltic core. The excellent deformability and impermeability of the asphaltic core is able to follow the deformation of the compacted rock-fill material best during construction, initial filling and operation period without any seepage. The asphaltic core was placed in three 20 cm layers per day by a specially developed placing unit from a contractor. The upstream and downstream filter zone was placed at the same time with the same machine and compacted carefully by vibrating rollers. The dam is curved in plan with a radius of 650 m and contains about 1.6 million m³ rock fill material. The surface of the downstream side was built exceeding the environmental standards of the time.The most important indicator of the normal function of a dam is the behaviour of seepage. A monitoring system of seepage, piezometers, earth pressure cells and deformation has been installed. The seepage water is monitored online at seven points of the dam base and at the access tunnel to the bottom outlet valve. Geodetic measurements on and inside the dam are done once a year. Several additional pieces of surveillance equipment were installed to observe the behaviour of the asphaltic core. The paper concentrates on the design, construction and performance of the dam with the asphaltic core.
Karen Soo Kee
Strategic resource management has never been more important than it is today with the aging of the “baby boomers” and their ongoing exodus from the workforce. The vacancies they leave in professions such as engineering are just beginning to be felt and will exponentially escalate over the next few years. Specialised professions such as dam engineering and related professions will be hit the hardest as the knowledge and skills learnt over decades are depleted.
The lack of skilled staff and in fact the lack of interest of young engineers in entering the dam industry is one of the critical challenges for today. How do we attract professional staff into the field of dam safety before the exodus creates a “black hole” that can never be filled? And how can we ensure the knowledge transfer from existing skilled staff to newer staff to retain expertise within the industry?
Another issue for resource management is that tomorrow’s workers, the “X &Y generations”, will be unlike the current and previous generations of workers. These workers will be less likely to have a mortgage, will have fewer children and be more interested in lifestyle, not career. They will be extremely confident, well educated and very mobile. The future will be a sellers market. The challenge here will not only be to attract and recruit talented workers but also to retain them.
Internal erosion and piping within embankment dams may initiate in cracks caused by differential settlement or desiccation, in cracks caused by hydraulic fracture and in very poorly compacted layers of soil. It generally cannot occur unless one of these defects is present because backwards erosion, the other mechanism for internal erosion, will not occur in embankments under normal gradients and will not occur in cohesive soils unless gradients are exceptionally high.
As a result it is very unlikely that it will be possible to detect initiation of erosion with piezometers, and the most likely successful method is seepage observation and monitoring. However the time from the first detection of increased seepage to breach of the dam may be very short-a matter of hours in some situations.
Thoughtfully positioned and read piezometers are more likely to be successful in identifying the critical gradients which may lead to the onset of backwards erosion in cohesionless soils in the foundation of dams.
Piezometers are more useful in establishing the pore pressures for use in analysis of stability, but in most cases where stability is marginal undrained strength analysis is required and the pore pressures and effective strengths alone are not sufficient to assess stability. In a number of cases differential settlements, and acceleration of settlements have proven valuable in detecting the on-set of instability and the conditions in which internal erosion and piping to initiate. Once these conditions are recognised more detailed survey monitoring and borehole inclinometers can be valuable in better defining the geometry of instability.
G. L. Sills, N. D. Vroman, J. B. Dunbar, R. E. Wahl
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall just east of New Orleans and inflicted widespread damage on the Hurricane Protection System (HPS) for southeast Louisiana. Subsequent flooding was a major catastrophe for the region and the Nation.
The response to this disaster by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers included forming an Interagency
Performance Evaluation Taskforce (IPET) to study the response of the system and, among many lines of inquiry, to identify causes of failure of levees and floodwalls.
Beginning in September 2005, the IPET gathered geotechnical forensic data from failed portions of levees and floodwalls. Major clues discovered at the 17th Street break, including clay wedges dividing a formerly continuous layer of peat, led to an explanation of the failures. Field data from the failure sites were interpreted within the regional geologic setting of the New Orleans area to identify geologic and geotechnical factors that contributed to the catastrophe. The data gathered provided a method that resulted in the “IPET Strength Model.” This strength was used in analyses of the I-walls and levees using limit equilibrium stability analyses, physical modeling using a powerful centrifuge, and finite-element analyses.
The results of all three types of studies revealed a consistent mode of failure that included deformation of the I-walls and foundation instability. The IPET also studied non-failed I-walls at Orleans and Michoud Canals, to identify geotechnical, structural, and geologic distinctions between failed and non-failed reaches.
Performance of the HPS during Hurricane Katrina offered many lessons to be learned. These lessons learned include: the lack of resiliency in the HPS; the need for risk-based planning and design approach; the need for the examination of system-wide functionality; and knowledge, technology, and expertise deficiencies in the HPS arena. In addition, understanding of the failure mechanisms and related causes of the levee and floodwall breaches provides a new direction for future designs of hurricane protection systems.
C Lake and J Walker
Meridian Energy is the owner and operator of a chain of hydro dams on the Waitaki River in the
South Island of NZ. It operates a Dam Safety Assurance Programme which reflects current best
practice; consequently it has focused primarily on managing civil dam assets. Advances in plant control technology have allowed de-manning of our power stations, dams and canals through centralised control. The safety of our hydraulic structures is increasingly reliant on the performance of Dam Safety Critical Plant (DSCP) – those items of plant (eg water level monitoring, gates, their power and control systems, and sump pumps) which are required to operate automatically, or under operator control, to assure safety of the hydraulic structures in all reasonably foreseeable circumstances.
Recent dam safety reviews have highlighted that the specification and testing of our DSCP is based on the application of ‘rules of thumb’ which have been established through engineering practice (eg. “monthly tests”, “third level of protection”, “backup power sources”, “triple voted floats”). The
adequacy of these engineering practices is difficult to defend as they are not based on published
criteria. The realisation that such rules may not be relevant to the increased demand on, and complexity of, DSCP led us to ask “Which belts and braces do we really need?” The current NZSOLD (2000) and ANCOLD (2003) Dam Safety guidelines give little guidance regarding specific criteria for the design and operation of DSCP.
Meridian has identified the use of Functional Safety standards (from the Process industry, defined in IEC 61511) as a tool which can be applied to the dams industry to review the risks to the hydraulic structures, the demands on the DSCP, and utilise corporate “tolerable risk” definitions to establish the reliability requirements (Safety Integrity Levels) of each protection, and determine lifecycle criteria for the design, operation, testing, maintenance, and review of those protections.
This paper outlines the background to identifying Functional Safety as a suitable tool for this purpose, and the practical application of Functional Safety Analysis to Meridian’s DSCP.