2009 – Embankment design and constrtuction risk management for the right abutment at Hinze Dam

Gavan Hunter and James Toose

Hinze Dam, an extreme hazard storage, is under the authority of Seqwater (Southeast Queensland) and is the principal potable water storage supplying the Gold Coast. The Stage 3 raise, presently under construction, involves raising the embankment almost 15m to a maximum height of 80m.

The central core earth and rockfill embankment is founded on competent greywacke rock within the valley floor and left abutment. On the right abutment it is founded on extremely weathered greywacke and rockfill stability berms were constructed upstream and downstream on this weak foundation.

Key issues for the design of Stage 3 embankment raise on the right abutment were: 1/ removal of the existing downstream stability berm and deep excavation at the toe of the Stage 2 embankment to connect into the blanket filters under the downstream shoulder; 2/ the soil strength properties of the weathered greywacke foundation and the presence of pre-sheared defects with strength properties significantly below the strength of the soil mass; and 3/ undertaking the works while the reservoir remained in operation and close to full supply level.

It was not possible to undertake large scale excavation at the downstream toe of the right abutment as the factor of safety for the excavation condition was below the design criterion for slip surfaces extending back to the upstream shoulder. The innovative design solution was for a staged excavation and back fill operation up the right abutment. In this ay the stability requirements were achieved by a 3-dimensional  buttressing support and reduced the time that critical excavation sections were exposed.

The construction risk is being managed under a dam safety management plan. Key elements of this plan include instrumentation monitoring and increased surveillance for early detection of a potential incident, a series of trigger levels and responses to these levels, a clear hierarchy of contacts and adequate preparation for a dam safety emergency (including materials, personnel and equipment).

The embankment construction is presently in progress. The most critical sections have been successfully completed without incident and displacements are within the predicted range. Communication and planning within the Alliance between the designers and constructors has been a key element in the successful construction works to date.

Keywords: construction risk, embankment design, embankment construction, dam safety management

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