2016 – Damage to the Fairbairn Dam Spillway and Subsequent Analyses and Design of the Remedial Works

Peter Foster, Bob Wark, David Ryan, John Richardson

Fairbairn Dam is a zoned embankment dam completed in 1972 and located in central Queensland near the town of Emerald. The spillway, which is located toward the left abutment, consists of a 168 metres wide concrete ogee crest, converging concrete chute and dissipater basin. The overall length from the ogee to the downstream end of the concrete spillway is approximately 195 m. The chute and dissipater basin are underlain by a matrix of longitudinal and transverse drains for pressure relief of the anchored concrete slabs.

Minor repairs to damaged chute slabs were undertaken following the 2011 flood event. During these rectification works, large voids up to 0.3 metre in depth were found under sections of the concrete chute slabs as well as damage and blockage to the sub-surface drainage system. Discoloured water was also observed discharging from sections of the sub-surface drainage system. Some of the 24 mm diameter bars designed to anchor the slabs to the foundation were found to have corroded at the concrete/foundation interface and subsequent pull-out tests showed that the anchors had minimal or no structural capacity.

These investigations led to a review of the hydraulic design of the spillway, upgrade to the sub-surface drainage system and apron slabs, and installation of replacement anchor bars. An understanding of the transmission of pressures and dynamic pressure coefficients resulting from spillway discharge and the effects of the hydraulic jump was an essential component of the design for the new anchor and drainage system.

This paper provides detail on the investigations undertaken, the hydraulic modelling that is underway including physical hydraulic and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and the design approach for what is described in this paper as the Stage 1 component of works.

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