2014 – Cracking and Dam Safety of a 100 Year Old Puddle Core Embankment

Gavan Hunter, David Jeffery and Chris Kelly

Laanecoorie Reservoir, located in central Victoria, passed 3 significant floods in late 2010 to early 2011; the last flood being the highest on record since 1909. Significant cracking and deformation of this 100 year old puddle core earthfill embankment occurred. A series of longitudinal cracks up to 25 mm in width opened up in the crest over a length of 70 m and crest settlements were up to 70 mm; very large for a dam of this age. A significant difference at Laanecoorie compared to other similar dams is that it experiences high tail water levels during major flooding.
Investigations into the embankment following the January 2011 flood encountered several defects
including a decomposed tree root hole (large void up to 90 mm) that almost fully penetrated the raised section of puddle core, permeable gravel layers within the puddle core and transverse cracks up to 2 mm wide. The encountered defects and performance of the embankment many years after construction highlighted the deterioration that can occur with aging of these older embankments and the issues associated with poor past practices in tree management adjacent to dam embankments.
Dam safety upgrade works were undertaken in 2013 to address the identified piping and stability risks.
The works included construction of a filter buttress, replacement of a length of the raised puddle core and construction of a buried gabion wall on the left abutment to provide protection against scour should the secondary spillway fail or overtop.
GMW implemented a series of actions during the flood events in accordance with the Dam Safety
Emergency Plan (DSEP) to address cracking and deformation. Once aware of the dam safety risks, interim actions were implemented including increased frequency of monitoring, together with set up and measurement of crack pins, and temporary survey markers on the embankment.

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