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.
Alan K Parkin
There is a widespread perception among dam engineers that tree root invasion occasions a very serious threat to embankment dams by virtue of its potential to initiate piping failure, with appropriate action invariably recommended. Remedial works can, on occasions, be extensive.
While the principle is ostensibly plausible and scarcely challenged, there has never been, to the Author’s knowledge, a satisfactory investigation to establish any credible scientific basis for it. One case that has attracted some attention in literature (by virtue of the extent of the investigation undertaken), viz a piping accident at Yan Yean Dam, is critically reviewed to show that the accepted view on the role of tree roots in this incident is less than satisfactory. In the course of this review, two physical Laws of Piping are proposed, and applied both to this case and to another nearby Melbourne Water dam that also has a history of piping.
Whilst the consequences of piping in a major dam are such that risk from this source must be kept to a very low level, it is concluded here that piping risk arising from tree root invasion has been considerably overstated and that a more balanced assessment is necessary before determining what, if any, action is required.
Jason Fowler, Robert Wark
Tropical Forestry Services (TFS) currently (2015) leases Arthur Creek Dam from the West Australian state government and utilises the water source to drip irrigate its Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) plantation. Arthur Creek Dam is located approximately 70 km south west of Kununurra in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. TFS grows and processes the sandalwood to produce oil that is used extensively in the global fragrance perfume market. TFS took over the lease of the 26 m high zoned earth core and rock fill dam in 2007 and has systematically carried out remedial works to the structure to lower the f-N curve below the ANCOLD “Limit of Tolerability” and to well within the ALARP zone. This paper describes the proactive risk management approach TFS has undertaken to address dam safety issues. It also specifically describes the most recent management issue, being the outlet pipe refurbishment.
A number of dam safety issues were identified during the initial surveillance and subsequent annual surveillance inspections. Issues include insufficient spillway capacity, seepage from the right abutment and deterioration of the steel outlet pipe. The remedial works to the outlet pipe were completed in late 2014 and involved close collaboration between TFS, the contractor and the designer. The outlet pipe re-sleeving operation was complex as the dam had to remain in operation and the water level could not be artificially lowered. In addition, the original outlet pipe was asymmetrical along both the vertical and horizontal axes, close to the bulkhead gate structure. Contingency measures were employed to enable the dam to remain in operation with 3 DN 400 HDPE siphon pipes installed.
The completion of the refurbishment of the outlet pipe by sleeving the pipe reduced the risk posed by this structure by an order of magnitude. Planned future risk reduction measures include the treatment of seepage within the upper right abutment and rebuilding the crest. These actions will further reduce the risk of dam failure through piping and overtopping of the dam crest.
Keywords: risk, ALARP, outlet pipe, re-sleeving.
There is a significant body of knowledge in relation to assessing the impacts of earthquakes on earth and rock fill dams which has led to a number of widely recognised and accepted methodologies for the calculation of potential deformations from an earthquake event. However, limited research has been conducted into the assessment of blasting impacts on earth structures. This has led to an adoption of earthquake analysis methods in the assessment of blasting impacts on earth structures without adequate consideration to the difference between the stresses and displacements imposed on an embankment as a result of a blast as opposed to an earthquake. Adopting earthquake analysis techniques may result in conservative vibration limits being imposed when undertaking blasting near embankment dams which may have negative financial impacts.
This paper explores the risks associated with blasting adjacent to earth fill dams and details the difference between stresses and displacements imposed on an embankment by a blast versus an earthquake.
This paper also discusses previously adopted approaches to assessing potential impacts associated with blasting and the limitations associated with adopting a pseudo-static and simplified permanent deformation analysis for blasts modelled as equivalent earthquakes. Finally, the paper proposes an alternate risk based analysis approach.
Paul Somerville, Andreas Skarlatoudis, and Hong Kie Thio
Engineers need ground motion time histories for the analysis of the response of structures to earthquake ground shaking. In current practice, these time histories are usually spectrally matched to a uniform hazard response spectrum. At low probabilities, this spectrum is too “broadband” (i.e. large over an unrealistically broad range of periods), and envelopes a set of more appropriate design response spectra, termed conditional mean spectra. These concepts are illustrated using a site-specific probabilistic seismic hazard analysis of ground shaking in which ground motion time histories are spectrally matched to conditional mean spectra that were derived from the uniform hazard spectrum.
Keywords: Ground motion time histories, Conditional mean spectrum.