Dam Safety & Security

ASDSO, ASCE, Alabama officials discuss dam safety bill

Experts from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials and the American Society of Civil Engineers met with officials from the state of Alabama in April to discuss the implementation of a state dam safety program.

Alabama is the only state without such a program, which Reps. Mary Sue McClurkin, Mike Hill and Kurt Wallace hope to amend with the introduction of House Bill 610.

“Without a dam safety program in Alabama, we don’t have important information about dams in our state, including an accurate picture of how many we have or their condition,” McClurkin said. “It is unacceptable for Alabama to continue to be the only state in the country without the resources to support this critical infrastructure to protect our residents.”

The lack of a dam safety program means most of Alabama’s dams do not have an emergency action plan, putting the state population at risk, ASDSO said.

“Dams are integral to our nation’s infrastructure and providing many important benefits,” ASDSO executive director Lori Spragens said. “We all have a role to play in creating a future where all dams are safe and Alabama needs a dam safety program in order to monitor and regulate the state’s dams.”

Although state governments regulate the majority of the dams in the U.S., the number of dams considered “deficient” has still increased dramatically in recent decades. ASDSO said the number of deficient dams increased 137% between 1998 and 2008, while ASCE gave America’s dam infrastructure a “D” grade in its most recent infrastructure report card (www.infrastructurereportcard.org/grades).

“A commitment by all states to improving dam safety today will save lives and property tomorrow,” Spragens said.

The bill has been referred to the House of Representatives Committee on Commerce and Small Business.

Corps plans dam monitoring systems at Trinidad Dam

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to install dam monitoring instrumentation at Trinidad Dam on Colorado’s Purgatoire River.

The 208-foot-tall earthfill Trinidad Dam was constructed for flood control, irrigation, municipal water supply for Trinidad, Colo., and recreation. It is utilized by the Purgatoire River Water Conservancy District.

The Corps’ Albuquerque District solicited bids from firms able to drill and install inclinometers and piezometers at Trinidad Dam. Both instruments monitor the stability of the dam, thus contributing to the overall safety of the dam and the communities downstream.

Work performed at Trinidad Dam is to include:

– Construction of a temporary access road on a large earthen dam slope;
2,100 feet of sonic drilling at 12 locations;
– Soil sampling; and
Installation of four inclinometers and eight piezometers.

Anniversary of dam failure that prompted safety program

A dam safety tragedy in 1874 led to Massachusetts’s first legislation regulating dam design, construction and liability.

On the morning of May 16, 1874, the Mill River Dam near Williamsburg, Mass., failed after heavy rain, sending 600 million gallons of water downstream. The resulting flood killed nearly 140 people, including 43 children under the age of 10, and destroyed the villages of Haydenville, Leeds, Skinnerville and Williamsburg. Investigators determined that the dam failed due to inadequate design and faulty construction.

The Mill River Dam failure helped spur the commonwealth’s first legislation regulating dam design, construction and liability. Today, the Massachusetts Dam Safety Program regulates 1,495 dams.

“Strong laws and resources to carry out dam safety programs are vital to the safety of dams across the country,” said Lori Spragens, executive director of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO). “The anniversary of the Mill River Dam failure reminds us of the importance of good planning and effective dam safety programs at all levels of government. These efforts have reduced the loss of life resulting from dam failures dramatically.”

State governments regulate about 77% of dams in the U.S., but many state dam safety programs lack the necessary resources to adequately monitor and regulate their dam inventories, ASDSO says. In early 2013, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that provides funding and enhances reporting and enforcement authority to make it easier for the state to repair or remove unsafe dams.

Corps to install fire suppression systems at Chief Joseph Dam

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sought bids in May from firms able to supply fire suppression systems at 2,620-MW Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River in Washington state. The systems will contribute to overall dam safety.

The Corps’ Seattle District first sought information in April on firms able to perform spillway gate lifecycle maintenance for Chief Joseph. It awarded a contract to Holt Services Inc. to perform drilling to replace inclinometers monitoring a “massive landslide” on the project’s left bank.

The next step planned by the Corps to improve the safety system at Chief Joseph Dam is installation of a fire suprression system. The solicitation is for firms with the capability to modernize or replace fire suppression systems for 29 generators that are protected by eight high-pressure carbon dioxide systems containing a total of 262 75-pound CO2 bottles. The system will work to decrease the damage from in-house fires and contain them.

The Corps values this work at $1 million to $5 million.

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