2011 – Enlarged Cotter Dam Saddle Dams – Materials and Construction

Mark Locke and Scott Kindred

The Bulk Water Alliance (BWA) consisting of ACTEW and ACTEW-AGL, GHD, and John Holland / Abigroup, are delivering the Enlarged Cotter Dam project in Canberra, ACT. The greatly enlarged reservoir will require two central core rockfill saddle dams on a ridge adjacent to the main dam site. Construction of these two dams was completed in early 2011. The challenges of the site and the Alliance delivery model have provided opportunities for innovation in both use of materials and construction.

The dam foundations were variably weathered and fractured with some highly weathered seams extending below the cutoff trench foundation. The foundation was grouted effectively using GIN grouting and the entire cutoff trench was shotcreted to reduce the risk of piping of the dispersive core material.

The steep topography provided very limited sources of material suitable for a dam core. Potential contingency plans considered included bentonite enrichment of the low plasticity materials or a change to a concrete faced rockfill dam. The high cost of these options drove the decision to use the available residual soils from small gullies by selectively winning material with a higher fines content for use below full supply level. The lack of room on the ridge for stockpiling and conditioning of clays lead to trialling of a continuous mixer for mixing and conditioning the core which was found to be highly successful.

Filter materials were crushed sands and gravels produced from nearby commercial quarries. The materials and grading were generally high quality, with some challenges producing coarser filter materials by blending available aggregate products. A range of options were effectively adopted for placement of the filters including loader placement, trench boxes and spreading from a modified ejector dump truck.

Enlarged Cotter Dam Saddle Dams – Materials and Construction

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