- The center spillway of the dam, which was 90 years old, suddenly fell on May 14, 2019, and practically drained the lake by the end of the day.
- Lake Dunlap Dam spillway collapsed in 2019, leaving the community completely shaken.
- The catastrophe was blamed on aged structural steel.
A dam collapsing can be catastrophic. It can affect local wildlife, and homeowners, and cost the region millions of dollars. When the Lake Dunlap Dam spillway collapsed in 2019, the community was completely shaken.
To supply the region with hydroelectric power, a dam was built in 1931, creating the reservoir. On May 1, 1963, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority took over management of the dam and lake. Fishing and boating are among the outdoor activities that could be done at Lake Dunlap.
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The center spillway of the dam, which was 90 years old, suddenly fell on May 14, 2019, at 8:05 am local time. It practically drained the lake by the end of the day! The dam’s lower, concrete section was still in place when this happened.
Aged structural steel was to blame for the catastrophe and the entire lake was eventually drained. The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority collaborated with lakeside neighbors, establishing a short-term water-control development district as well as an engineering and technical council.
Rebuilding a Community
When it came time to rebuild the dam, the entire community was thrilled and eager to get to work. Since the collapse, workers have been able to finish a temporary bridge. This bridge is being utilized for building access upstream of the dam toward the river’s primary channel.
The construction of the emergency spillway has been completed. In addition, one of the spill gate bays has a makeshift cofferdam in place. According to project administrators, flooding incidents and other unforeseen circumstances could arise during construction and raise the cost. The project’s completion will cost about $35 million.
In response to worries over deteriorating dams, the GBRA declared that Lake Gonzales, Meadow Lake, Lake Placid, and Lake McQueeney will all be drained a few months following the spill gate failure in 2019.
The new installation of the spill gate and modifications to the lake’s dam, as well as the dewatering of the lakes, were put on hold off until a compromise between GBRA officials and locals permitted GBRA to keep the operating conditions on each lake.
Finishing the Project
On November 3, 2020, the public overwhelmingly endorsed the formation of the Lake Dunlap WCID and gave it the right to fund the dam repairs and upkeep indefinitely. The Lake Dunlap Dam Restoration Project started as an idea of a few mindful citizens and gradually expanded into a community-wide grassroots effort.
With the help of that work, a completely established plan to reconstruct the dam was produced. If there are no significant floods between now and then, the strategy will allow the GBRA to fill the lake as early as June 23rd, 2023.
How Often Do Dams Collapse in the United States?
According to a 2018 report put out by the National Performance of Dams Program (NPDP) titled Dam Failures in the U.S., dam failures in the United States are more common than one would imagine. In fact, there are around 10 dam failures per year. Many of the dams that collapse are small ones, which lead to a low amount of flooding and overall negative impact. The report states that 96% of the time, the resulting flooding is not catastrophic in nature either to property or human life.
Historically disastrous dam collapses include the collapse of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889. When it broke, 20,000,000 tons or 3,600,000,000 gallons of water spilled out and pushed toward Johnstown. That particular dam failure resulted in the loss of 2,209 human lives, the destruction of approximately 1,600 homes, and property damage upwards of $17,000,000.
Is it Normal for Bridges to Collapse?
According to data analysis with 95% confidence, the estimated average annual bridge collapse rate in the United States falls between 87 and 222, with an expected value of 128. The database contains information on historical hazards that have caused bridge collapses across the country.
In fact, the top 5 leading causes of bridge failures are design errors, construction mistakes, hydraulic issues, collisions, and overloading. To minimize the risk of bridges failing under extreme loads, it is crucial to ensure they have enough redundancy and capacity protection measures in place.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Mihai N/Shutterstock.com
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