2019 – Paloona Dam Trashrack Failures: Revisiting design guidelines

David Law

Following the failure of Paloona Dam’s intake trashrack during the 2016 floods in northern Tasmania, a replacement trashrack and support structure was designed, manufactured and installed (by diver) within five months. This was a remarkable feat and hailed as a success at the time.

The euphoria, however, was short lived. A routine dive inspection in January 2018 revealed cracked
trashrack bars on one of the panels and this was after less than twelve months’ operation. This prompted a rigorous investigation where it was determined that the bars suffered fatigue due to flow induced vibration. Indeed it is possible that the bars cracked within a few weeks of returning to service.

The science of flow induced vibration is relatively mature, having been extensively researched over several decades. Its application to trashracks is well documented. However, this experience has shown that the common design approach overly simplifies the fluid-structure interaction. For Paloona, the result was a trashrack design which has proven to be inadequate, not having the resilience required for a dam outlet works component.

This paper revisits flow induced vibration theory as it pertains to trashracks, outlines the findings of vibration testing at Paloona, and suggests a design approach which will avoid similar issues. It is hoped that similar failures can be prevented and the design life expected of trashracks achieved.

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