2013 – Challenges and lessons learnt from high-risk dam construction projects

Matthew Sentry and Darren Loidl

To triple Yass’ water storage capacity, Yass Valley Council was required to increase the height of their existing concrete weir by 3.0 m. The 100 m wide weir was originally constructed back in the 1920’s. Upgrade works to the weir included raising the height of the existing concrete weir by 3.0 m with reinforced concrete; install 33 number 27 strand post-tensioned ground anchors vertically into the crest; construct a new outlet structure; upgrade existing mechanical pipe works; and replace the existing pedestrian bridge with a concrete bridge capable of vehicle traffic.
The key project constraints during construction were to maintain constant water to the town’s water treatment plant and maintain minimum 70% reservoir storage.
The original weir had no auxiliary means of flow diversion and the construction constraints meant that the water storage could only be reduced by 1.0 m from the existing crest during construction, resulting in the construction work being carried out in an active water course with minimal means of flow diversion. These key project constraints meant that there was a high risk of flooding during construction work.
Geotechnical Engineering was engaged by Yass Valley Council to carry out the required upgrade work at Yass Dam. Prior to construction work commencing, risk workshops with client and designers clarified the flood risks during construction. To minimise the impact of flood events during construction, Geotech implemented several flood mitigation measures which were controlled by a detailed construction flood management plan. These control measures included construction of two temporary diversion slots cut into the existing concrete weir capable of supporting a 1 in 2 year rain event whilst allowing construction work to continue; re-design of concrete works to minimise the volume of concrete which was to be cut from the existing wall’s downstream face; detailed construction sequencing to minimise impact to existing and new wall during construction work; and the early installation and stressing of anchors.
Although a detailed construction flood management plan was developed and implemented, the Yass Dam site was impacted by 13 floods during the 20 month construction period. Several floods recorded water levels between 1.5 m and 1.9 m above the existing crest, resulting in work ceasing for weeks if not months at a time. As a result of the consistent flooding, Geotech was able to develop stronger and more resilient methods to be able to effectively work within an active watercourse on dam structures where minimal flow diversions are available. This paper presents the unique techniques implemented through the Yass Dam Upgrade project and discusses the effectiveness of these techniques and lessons learnt through the 13 flood events experienced.


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