2006 – Tullaroop Dam: Embankment Cracking And Risk Based Assessment Of Remedial Works

G. Hunter, R. Fell, S. McGrath

The main embankment at Tullaroop Reservoir is a 42m high zoned earth and rockfill dam that was constructed in the late 1950s. The constructed embankment has a very broad, well compacted clay earthfill zone with dumped rockfill on the mid to lower upstream and downstream shoulders.

Over a two week period in April 2004 a diagonal crack of 60mm width and greater than 2m depth developed on the downstream shoulder of the main embankment. The crack was located on the left abutment and extended from the crest to the toe of the embankment. The diagonal crack terminated at the downstream edge of the crest. A continuous longitudinal crack extended along the downstream edge of the crest from the diagonal crack almost to the left abutment. Since April 2004 no further widening of the diagonal crack has been observed.

This paper presents the findings of a series of site investigations and analysis to understand the mechanism for formation of the diagonal crack, and the risk assessment process that culminated in the eventual construction of a full height filter buttress on the left abutment of the main embankment. Factors that influenced the cracking included the change in slope in the foundation profile, the temporary diversion channel on the left abutment, residual stresses in the dam abutment due to differential settlement during construction, a complex foundation geology and presence of shear surfaces in a Tertiary alluvial sequence that formed due to valley formation, an historic dry period and a prolonged period of drawdown. The presence of the crack and its assessed mechanism of formation presented a dam safety risk of piping through the embankment. The risk evaluation process was worked through with URS, Goulburn-Murray Water (G-MW), and G-MW’s expert panel, and eventuated in construction of the localised filter buttress in February – March 2006 to address the dam safety deficiency.

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