2012 – Negotiating the Geological Structure of the Enlarged Cotter Dam Site During the Abutment Excavation Period

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Andrew Barclay, Greg Kotze

The Enlarged Cotter Dam (ECD) is under construction on the Cotter River, 18km west of Canberra. The new dam comprises an 85m high roller compacted concrete gravity dam, located 120m downstream of an existing 31m high concrete dam. This paper describes the geological structures that prevail at the site and their significance with respect to design and construction considerations.
Geological mapping has confirmed that the abutment slopes are characterised by zones of prominent rock outcrop and thin mantles of colluvial soil that form overall slope angles of 45 degrees. The Cotter River valley in the ECD area has been eroded through a geological sequence of Early to Late Silurian age, comprised predominantly of porphyritic rhyolite and lapilli tuffs of the Walker Volcanics.
Geotechnical investigations for the ECD were extensive and comprehensive. The results obtained have enabled the compilation of a detailed geological model of the dam site. Particular attention was paid to defining, characterising and kinematically analysing prominent geological structures, including intersecting sheared or crushed seams and zones that traverse the dam footprint.
Prominent geological structures that were encountered during the abutment excavation had significant design and construction implications for:
 Abutment stripping and foundation preparations;
 Rock slope stabilisation;
 The foundation of the intake tower that comprises a 66m high concrete structure; and
 The foundations for 1 x 56m high and 2 x 78m high tower cranes that required positioning on the steep abutment slopes during construction.
This paper highlights the importance of understanding the geological origin, nature and distribution of rockmass defects within a complex rock foundation. Site specific construction requirements and engineering design solutions used to successfully negotiate adverse geological structures are described.
Keywords: Dam, Roller Compacted Concrete, Geological Structures, Abutment, Foundation.


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