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Jeffrey A. Schaefer, Ph.D., P.E., P.G. and David M. Schaaf, P.E.
In 2005 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) developed and implemented a Screening Portfolio Risk Assessment (SPRA) process for Dam Safety. The screening process considered loading frequency, an engineering rating to estimate a relative probability of failure, and both human life and economic consequences of failure. The results were utilized as a tool to help prioritize funding for dam safety modification projects and required studies. Three multidisciplinary cadres evaluated what was considered the worst 10% of the USACE’s dam projects in 2005 and the next worst 10% in 2006. The dams evaluated included flood control, navigation, and multi-purpose dams. Approximately seventy facilities were evaluated each year.
As a result of the aging of the USACE’s dam portfolio and the state of the art at the time of design and construction (mostly 1940’s-50’s), significant dam safety deficiencies exist at many USACE dams. This paper summarizes the major deficiencies identified from the SPRA process. Examples, including foundation seepage, karst development, embankment stability, gate deterioration, liquefiable foundations, and inadequate spillway capacity are provided along with discussion on which deficiencies contribute the greatest risk.Learn more
David M. Schaaf, P.E., Jeff Schaefer, Ph.D., P.E., P.G
The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has an inventory of over 600 dams. The main purpose of many of these dams is for flood control, but there are a significant number of dams primarily used for navigation. Additional benefits at many of these projects are provided through hydropower generation, recreation, and irrigation for farmers. Many of the dams are quite old and represent an aging infrastructure across the inventory. In addition, leaner budgets relative to the need for repairs across the aging system require that USACE invest wisely in order to efficiently use available funds to reduce the greatest risks across the inventory. Previously, individual projects with perceived deficiencies were evaluated separately by the responsible district. This evaluation was not compared in any programmatic way to other USACE dams being evaluated for deficiencies.
In order to improve the process of making risk-based decisions across the entire spectrum of USACE dams, the Screening for Portfolio Risk Assessment (SPRA) for the USACE Dam Safety Program was initiated during the summer of 2005. This effort represents the first level of a multiple phased effort to bring full scale risk assessment to the decision-making regarding making investment decisions associated with dam safety by linking engineering reliability with economic and life loss impacts on a relative scale. The SPRA effort involved the development of a tool for evaluating the relative life and economic risk of dam failures for a variety of deficiencies across the inventory of USACE dams. This paper will focus on the basic aspects of the evaluation tool as well as the process by which the screening was completed.Learn more