#WheresWilly team moves inside for a rainy day discussion about Dams

On Friday, our #WheresWilly team took a break from the sites and sat down with some dam owners and operators to discuss the importance of rehabilitation of aging dams, preventative maintenance, and monitoring. Too often waterpower generators get tunnel vision, focusing on the mechanical and electrical systems when it comes to budgeting for upgrades. This is understandable given their direct correlation to the financial bottom line.

However, neglecting the structural elements of a facility can add up to huge repair bills and possible downtime if deterioration is left unchecked for too long. During our road trip this summer, we have seen many dams that are in desperate need of some attention. MKE and its WheresWilly team cannot stress enough the importance of incorporating the structural components to the facility’s preventative maintenance plan and adding monitoring. Costs associated with repairing typical progressive structural deterioration of dams from such things as freeze-thaw and corrosion can grow exponentially with time left unchecked.

We recommend the first step to be a detailed structural inspection from qualified engineer at MKE. After the initial inspection, MKE will provided a prioritized summary of future work to be completed. MKE will then work with the dam owner to develop a comprehensive plan to bring the aging dam back up to an acceptable condition based on the budgetary constraints. Finally, MKE will help to develop a Preventative Maintenance Plan as well as industry standard dam documentation such as Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans (EPRP); Operation, Maintenance & Surveillance (OMS) Plans, Public Safety around Dam Plans as part of the facility’s Dam Safety Management.

Finally, our team has also unfortunately seen the results of poor design and workmanship with respect to dam rehabilitation over this summer. While some repairs can look fantastic when completed, MKE cautions dam owners that if the repairs do not address the underlying issues such as leakage both into AND through the structure, a “patch” can actually cause more harm then if it was never done and it will ultimately not last. A holistic approach is required for these complex systems. To quote an old idiom “the devil is in the details” when it comes to good quality concrete repairs.