Dam Safety & Security

Inspections begin after barge sections hit Marseilles Dam

The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers performed salvage operations at Marseilles Lock and Dam in Illinois in early May after several barges broke free from their towing vessel and came to rest against the dam structure.

The Coast Guard said the barges were being towed through high flood waters and heavy river currents when seven broke free in the Illinois River, sending them toward Marseilles Dam.

Four of the barges were removed from the area, leaving three partially submerged as crews removed iron ore in an effort to lighten them.

In the meantime, the Corps said it had mobilized crews with sonar instrumentation that will allow for underwater analysis of potential damage to the dam.

Marseilles Dam is a 600-foot-long concrete structure with eight 60-foot- wide by 30-foot-high tainter gates that impounds a reservoir about 24 miles long with a surface area of 1,454 acres.

Marseilles Lock and Dam is to become the eventual home of a 10.26-MW hydropower project. The Marseilles Land & Water Company obtained a license for its development from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in December 2011, although work has not yet begun on the plant.

National Dam Safety Awareness Day held to educate and inform

Held on May 31, National Dam Safety Awareness Day was observed on the 124th anniversary of the Johnstown Flood, which resulted from the catastrophic failure of South Fork Dam on Little Conemaugh River in Johnstown, Penn. The day and its timing highlighted the enduring need for community members to be aware of the risks of living downstream and near dams.

To educate residents living, working and playing near dams, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) released an educational guide entitled "Living with Dams: Know Your Risks." With support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, ASDSO create the guide to offer information about the types of dams and their different benefits to surrounding communities, the risks faced by those downstream, resources for those in a dam failure inundation zone, safety tips and suggestions for preparing and dealing with emergencies.

"We all have an important role to play in creating a future where all dams are safe, and this guide answers important questions about why people should care about dams and what they should do if they live near a dam. We are providing this important information to state dam safety programs, emergency managers, local officials, real estate agents and others to share with their stakeholders and the public," said ASDSO Executive Director Lori Spragens.

According to ASDSO, residents can find out if their home or workplace is in a dam inundation zone by speaking with representatives from the state dam safety program or local emergency management agency. The organization also advises in its guide that residents near dams should have an emergency preparedness plan with evacuation routes. People can also encourage lawmakers to support dam safety measures.

To receive a copy of the guide, email, or you can download a PDF version online at

Corps awards contract for engineering services at two dams

Terracon Consultants Inc. has won a US$5 million contract for geotechnical engineering services from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, primarily at the 270-MW Wolf Creek Dam in Kentucky and 135-MW Center Hill Dam in Tennessee.

The Corps' Nashville District most recently solicited bids for the work in April, which will run for five years.

A 2008 assessment of equipment at nine Corps hydropower plants on the Cumberland River in Tennessee and Kentucky - including Wolf Creek and Center Hill - found a need for up to $470 million in repairs to both maintain the safety standards of the dams and to prevent potential damage to the communities downstream.

Dam safety reviews planned for three Canadian dams

Canadian provincial utility BC Hydro plans to obtain dam safety reviews of three dams in its British Columbia hydropower system.

The three dams to be reviewed are Coquitlam Dam on the Coquitlam River, which supplies water to the 26.7-MW Buntzen 2 hydroelectric plant, Sugar Lake Dam, and Wilsey Dam on the Shuswap River, which store water for the 10.4-MW Shuswap Falls hydroelectric plant.

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