Dam Safety & Security

U.S. awards contract for Folsom Dam spillway work

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation awarded a $48.8 million contract to Oregon Mt. Construction Co. to help build a new auxiliary spillway for 198.72-MW Folsom Dam, on California’s American River.

The Redding, Calif., company is to finish the work in summer 2010 as part of a multi-year program of safety modifications planned for the dam and reservoir.

Oregon Mt. Construction will perform spillway excavation work, construct a stilling basin cofferdam, and relocate a 42-inch water supply pipeline serving the city of Folsom. Reclamation previously awarded a $16 million contract to Kiewit Pacific Co. of Concord, Calif., to do initial construction work.

Construction began in January 2008 as a joint federal project by Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Water Resources, and Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency.

The auxiliary spillway is being built to address the hydrologic risk to Folsom Dam identified by Reclamation’s Safety of Dams program. The structure also is expected to achieve the Corps’ objective to double flood protection for the city of Sacramento, to cope with a 200-year flood.

Once the new auxiliary spillway is complete, the Corps will proceed with other flood control improvements, including a 3.5-foot increase in the height of earthen embankments and modifications to emergency spillway gates.

Canadian utility completes Coquitlam Dam seismic upgrade

BC Hydro reports it completed a C$65 million (US$54 million) seismic upgrade that included construction of a backup dam immediately downstream of Coquitlam Dam, serving the 55-MW Buntzen Lake 1 project.

The backup dam, 30 kilometers north of Vancouver, B.C., was needed to upgrade the existing 30-meter-tall earthfill structure, built in 1913. The backup dam was completed in 2007, with BC Hydro declaring the entire seismic improvement project complete in October 2008.

More than 4,000 cubic meters of concrete, 65,000 kilograms of steel, and 300,000 cubic meters of glacial till, sand, gravel, and rock were used to build the new 30-meter-tall, 300-meter-long earth and rockfill embankment dam.

Water from Coquitlam Lake Reservoir powers Buntzen Lake 1. A second hydropower plant, 18-MW Buntzen Lake 2, no longer is operational.

The seismic improvement project ensures Vancouver’s first hydropower supplier will continue to provide clean, reliable power for generations, BC Hydro said. The system first generated power in 1903.

“Investing in this heritage asset helps secure a reliable supply of clean energy for the Lower Mainland,” Energy Minister Richard Neufeld said. “Much of the growth in electricity demand will be in Metro Vancouver, so ensuring the longevity of a power system so close the province’s major population center is important in helping us meet our current and future energy needs.”

Kwikwetlem First Nation, Metro Vancouver, regulatory agencies, local governments, local stakeholders, and BC Hydro staff supported construction of the new dam. JJM Construction Ltd. built the backup structure under a C$25 million (US$21 million) contract.

BC Hydro pursued the seismic improvement project after discovering a zone of loose fill within the dam could liquefy during a moderate to large earthquake.

Workshop to initiate sharing of dam failure mode information

To effectively manage risks of dam operation, owners, regulators, and consulting engineers need the best available knowledge about potential failure modes and the associated consequences, says Constantine G. (Gus) Tjoumas.

Tjoumas is owner of Dam Safety Consulting LLC and technology coordinator for the Dam Safety Interest Group (DSIG) of CEATI International Inc. He previously was director of dam safety and inspections for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

To provide a way for the dam safety community to gain this knowledge, CEATI International’s DSIG – composed of more than 35 dam owners from throughout the world – is launching an information-sharing initiative, Tjoumas says.

The initiative begins with a March 24-25, 2009, international workshop, “Case Studies: Learning from International Dam Incidents and Failures,” at which the dam safety professionals will share case studies of dam failures and incidents.

Immediately following the workshop, Tjoumas says DSIG participants and invited guests will meet to discuss ways to continue sharing information about dam failures and incidents. In particular, CEATI’s DSIG will facilitate a discussion about the possibility of establishing and maintaining a database (or expanding existing databases) to capture details of dam safety case studies. Tjoumas says DSIG envisions a database that would be accessible without charge to the global dam safety community.

Canadian dam group names officers, board leadership

The Canadian Dam Association (CDA) named new officers for 2008-2010.

Sayed Ismail, a hydrotechnical consultant in New Brunswick, is president. He replaces Tony Bennett of Ontario Power Generation, who moves to the office of immediate past president.

Joe Farwell of the Grand River Conservation Authority in Ontario is vice president. He replaces Ismail.

The board of directors appointed Bill Duncan, Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, secretary-treasurer. Duncan will serve the remaining one-year term of Mona Bechai of Mobec Engineering, Ontario, who resigned due to the increased demands of her consultancy business.

Directors elected, re-elected

CDA elected three new directors to its board and re-elected three others. Directors serve two-year terms.

New board members are:

    – Wayne Carlson, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada;
    – Ellis O’Neil, Nova Scotia Power Inc.; and
    – Caius Priscu, AMEC Earth & Environmental.


Members re-elected are:

    – Johanne Bibeau, Société d’énergie de la Baie James;
    – Charles Holder, BC Hydro; and
    – E. Gerard Piercy, Newfoundland & Labrador Hydro.


Directors continuing to serve on the board include:

    – Gilles Bourgeois, GENIVAR;
    – Ronald Gee, Yukon Energy Corp.;
    – Chris Gräpel of EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd.; and <
    – Karyn Wog, Alberta Environment.


The board appointed Andy Small of AMEC Earth & Environmental to complete the second year of the initial term of director Greg Snyder of Acres-Water and Wind Power.

Directors leaving the board include: Bob Barnes of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, past president; Bechai; Perry Mitchelmore of Mitchelmore Engineering Co. Ltd.; Snyder; and Terry Armstrong of Manitoba Hydro.

Panel recommends changes to Reclamation security program

An investigative committee of the National Research Council finds that the Bureau of Reclamation needs a more strategic approach to its security program.

The council appointed the committee at the request of Reclamation. Reclamation manages and operates some of the largest and most critical dams in the U.S., including five dams listed as “national critical infrastructure” facilities:

    – Folsom Dam, 199 MW of hydro capacity, in California;
    – Glen Canyon Dam, 1,312 MW, Arizona;
    – Grand Coulee Dam, 6,809 MW, Washington;
    – Hoover Dam, 2,079 MW, on the border of Nevada and Arizona; and
    – Shasta Dam, 710 MW, California.


Reclamation owns and operates 249 water resource projects, including 479 dams, dikes, and related facilities.

The committee, comprised of 14 experts from a variety of disciplines, assessed Reclamation’s security program to determine the organization’s level of preparedness to deter, respond to, and recover from malicious threats to its physical infrastructure and to the people who use and manage it.

The committee’s overall conclusion is that, although Reclamation is better able to protect its infrastructure and its people against malicious acts, the security program is not yet mature, well-integrated, or appropriately supported at all levels of the organization.

To date, it said, Reclamation has focused on tactical issues: developing a risk management approach; establishing security plans for each facility; staffing a security and law enforcement office; and developing an intelligence gathering and analysis capability.

Still missing, it said, are policies and operational guidance for effective responses to security-related incidents; performance measures to support continual improvement; and a method for disseminating lessons learned. Also missing are the full support and commitment of senior executives and managers at all levels and adequate resources – staff, expertise, and funding – to develop a robust and sustainable security program.

The committee says one of the organization’s highest priorities should be the development of a vision that explicitly links the physical assurance of Reclamation’s facilities to its overall mission of providing water and power.

Other recommendations include development of:

    – An expanded process for security assessments;
    – Policy on the use of deadly force;
    – Response plans for security-related incidents;
    – A streamlined personal identity verification process; and
    – Procedures on the sharing of intelligence-based information.


– Assessment of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Security Program, ISBN 978-0-309-12527-7, can be downloaded from the Internet: www.nap.edu/catalog/12463.html.

FERC draws attention to dam safety programs

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) convened a technical conference in December 2008 to emphasize the importance of strong federal and state programs to ensure dam safety.

While FERC regulates 2,500 dams, states are responsible for more than 80,000 dams, FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher said.”There are also many federal hydropower projects operated by other federal agencies,” he added. “Assuring dam safety at these various projects requires close collaboration between FERC and other federal and state agencies.”

Four commissioners attended the December 2008 technical conference, as did about 50 other people.

Daniel Mahoney, director of the Division of Dam Safety and Inspections in FERC’s Office of Energy Projects, presented a program overview, followed by two panels.

In the first panel, industry representatives described important features of a good dam safety program and major components of FERC’s dam safety program, including emergency action plans and dam site security.

In the second panel, three state dam safety officials from California, Nevada, and New York discussed state technical and resource needs, and Fred Sharrocks, chief of the Assessments and Planning Section, Risk Analysis Branch, Mitigation Division, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, shared information about the National Dam Safety Program.

Four Canadians recognized for exemplary dam work

The Canadian Dam Association (CDA) recognized the contributions of Desmond N.D. Hartford, Perry Mitchelmore, Ettore Contestabile, and Abass Braimah to the dams and dam safety community.

Desmond Hartford, scientific adviser for health, safety, and environment at BC Hydro, is the recipient of the Inge Anderson Award of Merit in recognition of his work to promote a new and promising approach to dam safety. The approach is based on, and informed by, assessment and management of risks and the development of seismic liquefaction risk analysis. Hartford is principal author of Risk and Uncertainty in Dam Safety and of the International Commission on Large Dams’ Bulletin 130 Risk Assessment in Dam Safety Management.

Perry Mitchelmore, president of Mitchelmore Engineering Co. Ltd., Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, received the Peter Halliday Award for Service. During Mitchelmore’s tenure as chair of CDA’s Communication and Publications Committee, committee members developed an on-line searchable database of all papers presented at CDA conferences and revised and updated the CDA website, www.cda.ca.

Two engineers from Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Explosives Research Laboratory received CDA’s Published Paper Award. Ettore Contestabile, laboratory section head, and Abass Braimah, senior explosives hazard engineer, wrote “A Historical Review of Bombings of Dams.” The paper summarizes blast effects on dams.

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