2012 – Innovation in the Design and Construction of the Enlarged Cotter Dam

Martin Weir

The Enlarged Cotter Dam project was selected as a key component in securing the future water supply for Canberra and the ACT region. The RCC gravity dam, when completed, will stand 84m high and will be the largest of its kind in Australia.
The dam was designed, and is currently being constructed, under the Alliance contract model. The collaboration this model brings between the owner and the design and construction teams facilitated a drive in innovation from the design through to the construction stages of the project. The focus of this paper is on some of the key innovative aspects of the project, for consideration on future RCC and dam projects.
Investigation was made into the placement of RCC in 400mm layers, compared to the industry adopted standard of placement in 300mm thick layers. Whilst full scale trials demonstrated that placement in 400mm thick layers was not detrimental to the quality of the RCC, the benefits in terms of increased production were never fully realised due to adverse weather and the geometry of the dam placement area. Some issues were also encountered with regards to the compaction of the GERCC on the dam faces. The results do however suggest that the method warrants consideration on future RCC projects.
The construction of the dam’s secondary spillway included a waterstop installation in a constrained RCC placement zone. By developing an arrangement that could hold the waterstop in place and induce the movement joint in the correct location, this arrangement simplified what could have been a complicated procedure in an already time consuming placement area.
The start of RCC placement was at risk of further delay on account of the extensive mass concrete pours required to level the dam foundation. A conventionally vibrated concrete mix, made from the existing site won RCC materials, was designed so that it could be produced from the RCC batch plant. This method of concrete production, combined with an efficient means of delivering the concrete to the pour area, accelerated the placement process and reduced the cost of construction.
Keywords: RCC, dam, construction.

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