2010 – A Unique and Holistic Approach to the Erodibility Assessment of Dam Foundations

Richard Herweynen, Colleen Stratford

Assessing the potential for erosion of foundation rock downstream of a spillway is a problem faced on many dams, whether new or existing. The problem is made particularly difficult not only due to the uncertainty in determining the erosion potential of the rock, but also due to the variable hydrologic characteristics of flood events.

The selected spillway option for Wyaralong Dam comprises a centrally located primary spillway with a secondary spillway located on the left abutment. A stilling basin energy dissipater is provided at the toe of the primary spillway. Downstream of the secondary spillway, an apron channel will direct flows back to the stilling basin. However, for flood events larger than the 1 in 2000 AEP event, the capacity of the secondary spillway apron is exceeded and flows spill out across the left abutment of the dam towards the river channel. Erosion of this left abutment was viewed to be a potential dam safety issue, and as such, careful consideration was required during the design stage to determine the acceptability of this spillway arrangement.

In order to provide structure to a problem which often relies solely on engineering judgment, a decision process was developed, taking into consideration some of the more definable aspects of the problem. These aspects included the geological characteristics, the initial hydraulic characteristics, the flood duration, the nature of erosion should it occur and the stability of the dam. This paper describes the decision process and methodology used at Wyaralong Dam to
determine the acceptability of erosion. This paper will present the process in a way that it can be used by others in future dam projects, both new and upgrades.

A Unique and Holistic Approach to the Erodibility Assessment of Dam Foundations


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