Richard R. Davidson, P.E., CPEng Kenneth B. Hansen, P.E.
Early in the twentieth century, placing concrete core walls within embankment dams was a popular construction technique for small to medium height dams. It became in vogue as a replacement for the popular British dam construction technology of puddle clay core dams which were used between the 1860’s and 1920’s. It avoided the many problems with semi-hydraulic / manned placement methods of the puddle clay cores within narrow trenches. However, after the mid 1930’s this concrete core wall construction fell out of favour because of the improvements made in embankment compaction methods and the difficulties in building reinforced concrete core walls to more significant heights.
Today concrete core wall embankment dams are now reaching an age where their continued performance is being questioned. This dam building technology has become extinct and is unknown to the last few generations of dam engineers. Therefore, it is relevant to re-examine this dam building technology in a modern context and work on answering the following questions. How have these dams performed after almost a century of service? Are there unanticipated performance features that have produced positive results when subjected to extreme flood and seismic events? Does the concrete provide enhanced performance over time? What role does steel reinforcement play in the performance of the core wall? Are there lessons here that can be applied to the more common concrete cutoff wall solutions being applied to embankment dams with seepage problems? This paper examines these questions with a number of illustrative case histories to provide a retrospective illumination of this forgotten dam building technology.
Keywords: Embankment dams, Concrete core walls, Dam construction history.
Krey Price, Mike Harvey, Bob Mussetter, Stuart Trabant
The California Department of Water Resources, Division of Dam Safety (DWR-DSD), has determined that San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River in Monterey County, California, does not meet seismic safety standards. Several alternatives have been considered to decommission the dam and eliminate the hazard, including thickening of the 25-m-high, concrete arch structure, lowering the dam, and complete removal. At the present time, the upstream reservoir that had an original storage capacity of about 1.8 GL, is essentially filled with sediment. The 29-km reach of the Carmel River between the dam and the Pacific Ocean passes through urbanised areas within the upscale Carmel Valley; flooding and channel stability in these areas are significant concerns. The Carmel River also contains habitat for the endangered steelhead and red-legged frog that could be positively or negatively affected by the decommissioning.
After an extensive series of hydraulic and sediment transport modelling studies, two actions remain under consideration: (1) dam thickening, which will require reconstruction of the existing fish ladder and construction of an adjacent, 3-metre diameter sluice gate to prevent sediment build-up from blocking the ladder outlet, and (2) removal of the dam and rerouting the river into a tributary branch of the reservoir, which would isolate approximately 65 percent of the existing sediment deposits from future river flows and eliminate a significant fish-passage problem. Both options were modelled extensively in hydrologic, hydraulic, and sediment transport applications. Since available models do not adequately represent sediment dynamics at the sluice gate, a special sediment routing model was formulated to evaluate this aspect of Option 1. Option 2 is currently preferred by the resource agencies, since it would optimise endangered species habitat; however, this option would be three to four times more expensive than Option 1, and funding limitations may impact the alternative selection. Evaluation efforts are ongoing, along with approaches to address liability issues associated with the decommissioning actions for the privately owned facility, while optimising the benefits and costs of the selected action.
Modelling Studies to Design and Assess Decommissioning Actions for a Seismically Unsafe, Concrete Arch Dam
Conrad Ginther, Colleen Stratford
The Wyaralong Dam Alliance (WDA), a consortium of seven engineering and contracting companies, was contracted to design and construct the Wyaralong Dam, which impounds the Teviot Brook 14 km from Beaudesert in Queensland, Australia. The dam is an approximately 500 metre long, 48 metre high Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC) structure built on a foundation generally consisting of massive sandstone with intermittent conglomerate zones consisting of cemented gravels, mudclasts and sands. Geologic features of note with regard to dam stability and long term seepage at the site are dominated by downstream sloping bedding features and conglomerate zones. In addition to the bedding-related features, two predominant vertical to subvertical fracture sets exist. The condition of the vertical fractures ranges from tight and fresh at depth to highly weathered and filled with dispersive clay and gravels near the foundation surface. To provide a durable and effective long term seepage barrier for the dam, an extensive foundation cleaning and treatment operation was undertaken. This comprised drilling, blasting, and excavation of the majority of the highly weathered rock and dispersive materials supplemented by localized installation of small cut-offs and dental concrete and the construction of a double-line grout curtain installed using real time computer monitoring, the GIN methodology, and balanced, stable grout mixes.
Foundation Preparation and Seepage Barrier Installation at Wyaralong Dam Construction Project
Lesa Delaere, Ivor Stuart, Thomas Ewing, David Marsh
As part of Wide Bay Water’s commitment to minimising environmental impacts of its water supply weirs, a “Nature Like” Fishway is under development for the Burrum No 1 Weir. This project is a fishway offset provision for the raising of Lenthalls Dam in the upper reaches of the Burrum River in Hervey Bay. The Burrum No 1 weir forms the primary pumping pool for the Hervey Bay water supply and is located at the tidal limit of the Burrum River. Understanding fish biology and behaviour is critical to the effectiveness of the design of a fishway as much as the balance between the goals of maximising fish passage versus cost, construction and operational difficulties that a fish passage solution may present.
This paper presents the aquatic ecology of the project and the inter-relationship of fish biology and river flow frequency. It discusses the fish species of the Burrum River, their behaviour, seasonal migration and criteria for successful passage. It presents the analysis of river flows with respect to frequency and headwater/tailwater relationships to weir drownout, which was complicated by the tidal flow regimes downstream of the weir. These aspects were also applied in consideration of river behaviour; low flow characteristics for fishway operation during dry seasons and drought, and high flow characteristics during the wet season and floods.
The biological needs for successful fish passage for two very different river flow characteristics were analysed. This allowed targeted design criteria and fishway solution to be developed to provide maximum benefit without causing undue cost to the project.
Burrum Weir Fishway – Fish Biology and River Flows: Two Faces
Monique de Moel, Mark Arnold, Gamini Adikari
Monbulk Saddle Dam, built in 1929, is one of two saddle dams located at the southern end of Silvan Reservoir, near the township of Monbulk, Victoria. The saddle dam is a 5.3m high earthfill embankment with a 230mm wide, centrally located, concrete core wall. The reservoir retained is located in the valley of Stonyford Creek, and impounds approximately 40,500 ML of water at FSL.
Excessive seepage at the right abutment of Monbulk Saddle Dam has been an issue since the early 1970’s. The reservoir has been operating with a level restriction since then to reduce the seepage flows. However; this restriction limits the operational flexibility of the storage. Early investigations concluded that the most likely mechanism for these excessive seepage flows was a defect in the concrete core wall.
Melbourne Water Corporation, (the owner and the operator of the reservoir), undertook a risk assessment for Silvan Reservoir as part of a review of its dams asset portfolio. Based on the information then available, the risk assessment was undertaken using the criteria and guidelines developed by ANCOLD. The result was that the piping risks associated with the seepage from the west abutment at Monbulk Saddle Dam was unacceptable. The risk assessment Panel also cast doubt on the likelihood of the seepage being caused by a defect in the concrete core wall. Melbourne Water therefore engaged SMEC Australia to investigate the likely causes and mechanisms for this seepage and to develop suitable remedial measures for the dam.
The investigations have included a desktop review of historical information, test pit investigations, Sonic borehole drilling, dynamic cone penetration tests, an infrared thermal imaging investigation and an electromagnetic groundwater seepage flow mapping investigation.
These investigations have shown that the most likely cause of the seepage is the presence of permeable foundation layers located beneath and around the existing core wall as the core wall does not extend over the full length of the embankment and becomes shallower towards the abutments.
To satisfy the ALARP principle; risk reduction remedial works Concept Designs are being developed and reviewed.
2011 – Investigating the Piping Risk Associated with Seepage at Monbulk Saddle Dam of Silvan Reservoir, Victoria