2005 – Use of Risk Based Design Validation for Justification of the Ross River Dam Upgrades

Malcolm Barker, Jon Williams and Chi Fai Wan

The Ross River Dam, designed in the early seventies, does not meet current dam safety criteria for overtopping and piping within the embankment or the foundation. The dam comprises a 40m long concrete overflow spillway flanked by a central core rockfill embankment of 130 m on the right bank and 170m on the left bank with a 7620 m long left bank earth fill embankment, which has no internal filter zones for piping protection. The embankment was extensively assessed and treated for foundation deficiencies in 1982, and further assessed in 2000-2002 for appropriate upgrade options.

This paper describes the process of validation of the detailed design using Risk Based Design Criteria.This process included data mining for historical performance and original design intention,comparison of the original design against current and historical investigations and assessment of the upgrades using the large volume of data available from previous work. A design team comprising specialist hydrologists, hydrogeologists, geologists, geotechnical and dams engineers worked within a risk assessment framework at all stages of the design to ensure the design was validated using the design Validation Model. This process incorporated assessment of crest level based on flood risk and wave overtopping, review of 2D and 3D seepage models to assess piping and foundation erosion potential, assessment of fissured soils within the embankment foundation for structural stability and evaluation of spillway model testing for potential spillway failure modes.

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